Monday, March 05, 2007

Lunar Eclipse - 4 Mar 2007

I happened to watch my first total lunar eclipse on Sunday morning, which was visible throughout India. This was the first time I witnessed a total lunar eclipse; the previous one which I witnessed was a partial one and in a few cases, an overcast sky prevented me from getting even a glimpse of the moon.

I had got a few CDs so that I could stay awake till the time the eclipse would start. The eclipse was supposed to start at 2:14am and would last till 7:15am. The total eclipse was supposed to last for 76 minutes starting from 4:15am.

The movie got over at 1:30am, and I just went to the terrace to check the sky. I was praying that the sky should be clear and I was not disappointed, there was not even a single cloud to be sighted anywhere – a sky gazers paradise. So I came back to watch some TV and kill the rest of the time until the eclipse started.

The Hindi news channel “Aaj Tak” was covering the entire eclipse live with constant reports from the planetarium in Delhi and from the bathing ghats of Haridwar. Its normal for devotees to take a dip in the holy Ganges during an eclipse.

At 2:15 the channel stated that the eclipse had started, and I proceeded to watch it with my own eyes. I went to the terrace, expecting to see a part of the moon already covered with the earth’s shadow, but I was initially shocked to see that the moon was still in its original form. It took me sometime to understand that it was the penumbra which was passing over the moon currently and it would take sometime before the umbra would pass. Only when the umbra would fall on the moon, would we be able to see the creeping shadow across its face. So I went back to the TV and returned to the terrace only when the umbra had started passing over the moon, which started at 2:50am.

The sight was simply magnificent. A part of the moon was dark, with a reddish glow, while the other was bright and milky. I was sorely missing a telescope, even though the sight was clearly visible to the eye, I wanted to see it in more detail. I wanted a more zoomed up picture of the moon, and a better view of the creeping shadows; but there was no source of such a view, except for the TV. At that moment, I would have been happy with a powerful binoculars, but there were none and I had to be content with watching the entire spectacle with my bare eyes.

I used the camera in my Sony Ericsson w810i to capture a few extremely crude pictures of the eclipse. You cannot make out anything on these photos, except for the apparent reduction in brightness, but I was very happy in capturing these snaps, as I had some way of capturing the event.

The first one was taken while the moon was under the penumbra region of earth’s shadow and the subsequent ones were taken during the time the shadows had started creeping on its surface. In a few of the pictures, you can make out that the shadow is creeping from the top left of the moon. The final picture gives a crude image of what was left at the end of the eclipse – a bright red orb.

At the end of it I was happy that I braved the mosquitoes, aching legs and sleep to watch the spectacular event.


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