Salisbury, MD. "In 1638, Harvard University had just been founded, the Salem witch trials had yet to begin, Galileo had just lost his eyesight---and the moon was blotted out by the shadow of the Earth. It was also the solstice, a celestial coincidence that wouldn't happen again for another 372 years." (1) Not, that is, until last night when we experienced a total lunar eclipse which over-shadowed the winter solstice (pardon the pun).
Normally, today we would be writing about the Winter Solstice…or the first day of winter…or the shortest day of the year. However you think of it. This year, for the first time in 372 years, all other events of that date have been significantly overshadowed by last night's total lunar eclipse. We hope you were able to stay awake…or get up….to see the magnificence of the spectacle.
The Gardening Grannies made round-robin phone calls as the eclipse made its progression from a partial eclipse that began at 1:33AM, to the total eclipse that began at 2:41AM and ended at 3:53AM (the most spectacular 72 minutes of the entire event) to a sleepy "good night" shortly thereafter and well before 5AM when the eclipse officially ended. Warning: there are some bleary eyed but happy Gardening Grannies tooling about the Peninsula today who witnessed the event….with pictures to prove it!
The weather was clear and cold. The moon was incredible as it went from almost white to a muted orange-red, reaching its peak at about 3:15AM. There had been a lot of general speculation leading up to the total lunar eclipse about the effect that the recent volcanic eruptions (Eyjafjallajokull volcano last spring and Mount Merapi in Indonesia in October) might have on the eclipse. The Grannies agree, the speculators were correct. The changing colors were magnificent!
Not counting the Grannies, an estimated 1 ½ billion people across the Americas, the western part of Europe, New Zealand and a small part of Asia and Australia were able to see this lunar phenomenon in its entirety…an early Christmas gift to be long remembered.
The next lunar eclipse coinciding with the Winter Solstice won't be until 21 December 2094 and the Grannies plan to tell their Grandkids to put it on their calendars!
The Gardening Grannies are a group of avid and Master Gardeners who live, love and garden on the Delmarva Peninsula. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we look forward to hearing from you.
(1) Web site www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/12/20/total-lunar-eclipse-monday-night/