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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Solstice Lunar Eclipse Viewing Provides Bonding Opportunity

Solstice Lunar Eclipse Viewing Provides Bonding Opportunity:
Fairfield Dad and sons monitor Moon’s passage through Earth’s shadow
(Posted on 12/21)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – So the plan was to catch the much talked about Solstice Lunar Eclipse live, without having to step outside into the late December bitter cold. That’s what my boys and I had decided and here’s how the plan unfolded...

As it was Monday and the lads, Phil, 11, and Evan, 15, had school the next day, it was agreed I would stay up and wake them at 1:30 a.m., the official start of the eclipse.

Sipping apple cider, munching on a block of cheddar cheese and channel surfing, I passed the time as they slept.

At the appointed hour, I went to wake them but one had set an alarm and they sprang to life on their own. We piled into our west-facing second floor bathroom and peered up through the window in the direction of the Moon.

Unfortunately, clouds swirled about up there and obscured the view, and the condition only got worse. We decided to employ technology.

Scrambling downstairs to a kitchen computer, we brought up NASA’s eclipse page, but that offered a blank screen only. Way more helpful and crystal clear was WPBT Channel 2’s live feed out of Miami.

As the time span of the eclipse was so lengthy, we decided to check on it at 15-minute intervals. Our first check was at 1:45 a.m. and a quarter “bite” had been taken. By 2 a.m., half the moon was obscured. By 2:15 a.m., nearly three quarters.

At 2:30 a.m., the Moon, as the eclipse was almost complete, had taken on a reddish glow. That was very surprising and exciting.

We flicked on our Christmas tree lights and tuned the TV to holiday music in celebration, and continued to monitor… Phil and I anyhow. Evan had seen enough and returned to his warm bed. Phil curled up in a SpongeBob Squarepants blanket on a living room couch between screen checks.

At each key interval, I snapped a photo of the screen and occasionally we would review the shots to see the event’s progression. It was much easier to see the passage than in real time, which was like waiting for a pot to boil.

At full eclipse, the Moon was glowing – a mix of burnt orange, white and a tinge of blue along the right side. This was about 2:45 a.m.

“It sounds so cold out there, Dad,” Phil remarked as we listened to the wind howl outside. Temps had fallen to 28 degrees but really felt like the teens with the wind chill. We wondered how anyone that had planned to be outside was faring. Just the thought made us break out hot chocolate mix and put milk on to boil.

Phil’s attention had waned by this point as he found “Back to the Future” on the tube. I was starting to lose interest, too, as the pattern, by 3, seemed to have paused.

A fire engine, not in any hurry, passed our Fairfield Beach area house, headed toward the ocean. We wondered if there were stargazer fans on the force that had decided to make a waterfront foray to see the celestial event.

By 3:15 a.m., we called it a night, our eclipse curiosity satisfied. We were glad we had experienced this dual lunar eclipse / solstice moment, a memory that would last for years to come.

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