It was an overcast Sunday, and the forecast did not sound promising for watching the eclipse of the Super Harvest Blood Moon here in Chicago. No consolation that there would be another lunar tetrad in 2033. How often do we get to see an astronomical event here? These sights are always weather permitting.
Nevertheless, conditions seemed favorable elsewhere. The reports on Twitter were decorated with hashtags and red moon emojis.
Saturday night, the moon was almost full, glowing through the clouds. The full moon closest to the autumn equinox is sometimes called the harvest moon. At this time, because of the tilt of the earth, the moonrise is about 30 minutes later on successive days, instead of 50 minutes. It seems to us that there are several full moons in a row!
Even behind clouds, the moon on Saturday was round and bright. Eclipse or no, it was an impressive sight.
Sunday afternoon, the sky cleared. Anticipation rose with the setting sun. Then, more cloud cover. It seemed the NASA webcast and Sky & Telescope livestream would be the only way to watch the eclipse from here.
I went outside to check one more time and caught a flash of light in the trees. The clouds were parting, and there was the moon!
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The earth shadow was just beginning to tint the moon. Down the street, neighbors sat on porch steps. There were telescopes and binoculars, and phones. It was an experience people wanted to share with friends and loved ones. Husbands hurried inside to get their wives. Kids stayed up for the show.
The eclipse was framed in clouds through the trees. I debated heading over to the expressway for an unobstructed view. I could picture the moon over the expressway, the movement of the eclipse above the rush of traffic. Our busy, urgent lives in contrast to this cosmic spectacle.
Babylonian eyes had seen this. Chinese eyes. Mayan eyes. Druids had witnessed this at Stonehenge. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors had perhaps trembled in fear at the sight. Was the world coming to an end? It is not so hard to imagine, faced with such mystery.
As I watched the growing shadow, I thought of many things.
Clouds obscured the eclipse after totality, here. The neighbors went inside. As the moon emerged from the shadow, I headed home. A black cat greeted me, rolling on the sidewalk. It was a beautiful night.
Eclipses are moving and majestic, a progression depicted on ancient clay tablets and in time-lapse photography. Some folks were already posting photos of the red moon online. It was a clear night in the UK, California and Vancouver. All over the world, people were sharing the moon.
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