Fantastic Friday: Lunar Eclipse and the Nature of Time

Today’s Fantastic Friday post comes on—well, a Sunday. I couldn’t resist posting about the upcoming lunar eclipse, set to start in just a few hours. It’s been cloudy all day, so I’m not sure if I’ll get a clear view or not.

If you haven’t heard, here are the details:

This lunar eclipse is being called a “blood moon” and is the last one we’ll see until 2033. This is a “supermoon lunar eclipse,” meaning that the moon is at its closest point to Earth during its eclipse (and thus appears larger to us). This has only happened five times since 1900 (the last time was 1982).

The “blood” part comes from the red tint the moon appears to have as it reflects light from the sun as filtered through the Earth’s shadow and atmosphere. The good news for those of you who (like me) are on the Eastern Coast of the United States: the moon is set to enter Earth’s shadow just after 9 p.m.—not too late, considering it’s a “school night.” In this time zone, the lunar eclipse will end a bit after midnight.

Space.com has more details here if you are interested.

What I love about celestial events is the uniqueness of them. Sure, you can view a webcast of the event after the fact (or even live), but there is something intriguing and even magical about watching a live celestial event. There’s something about the interconnectedness of it all—that there are dozens, hundreds, thousands of people gazing at the same sky in hopes of witnessing the same event. Something about it is reminiscent of the wonder our ancestors must have felt as they gazed up at the night sky.

I remember being a kid and trekking out with my parents to see Haley’s Comet when it came by our planet in the 1980s. It was dark and cold, and I remember driving to a hill at the top of our city. My dad set up his telescope, and my mom brought a thermos of hot chocolate.

Even though I didn’t fully understand what was going on, I noticed how many people were there, and the hushed silence and awe didn’t fly too far over my young head. When my parents told me that the next time the comet passed by Earth, they wouldn’t be around—and I might not, either—something clicked in me.

This was magic.

In our modern world, it’s easy to imagine that everything we ever want or need will be there for us whenever we want it, provided by an on-demand economy. But it’s celestial events like tonight’s blood moon that remind us that there are things greater than us, that there are opportunities not to be taken lightly, and as always, the most precious commodity is time.

Are you going to watch the eclipse tonight?

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