Monday, December 20, 2010

Those Long Summer Evenings On the Water...

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Winter getting you down already? Do not despair.
Those long summer evenings on the water are beginning as we speak. We now teeter on the cusp of the Winter Solstice when the tilt of the earth will tip back toward the sun, and the long flood of light and warmth begins anew.
The actual celestial moment will be 3:38 PM tomorrow, local time. That makes tomorrow night the longest night of the year, but tonight will certainly be long enough. And, due to an extremely rare convergence of the solstice with a total lunar eclipse, tonight will feel darker than usual.

Multiple astronomical events are lining up for a rare display of synchronization tonight as a total lunar eclipse overlaps with 2010's winter solstice.
Depending on the location, late night December 20 or early morning December 21, the full moon will be darkened by Earth's shadow as our planet passes between it and the sun. December 21 is also the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, after which the days will begin to grow longer. Coupled with the lunar spectacle, it means we're in for an especially dark eve.
According to The AP, North and Central America should both be able to view the entire eclipse, which is estimated to take about 3.5 hours. Total eclipse will begin at 11:41 p.m. PST on Monday, or 2:41 a.m. EST on Tuesday -- so obviously West Coasters will have a better chance to catch the magnificent sight without dragging around heavy eyelids and needing an extra dose of espresso the following morning. If you want to set an alarm to catch a brief glimpse of the amber moon, NASA recommends 3:17 a.m. EST for the optimal impression.
According to, NASA reports that this is the first time an eclipse has coincided with a solstice since December 21, 1638, and the next one won't come around again until 2094. The extravaganza in the sky doesn't end there, however, as the Ursids meteor shower will also be taking reports that this particular annual show is rarely witnessed compared to its brighter counterparts, but stargazers will have an especially exceptional chance to view the display this year because of the eclipse's darkened sky.

I went out at dusk--4:00--and realized we would not see the eclipse or the meteor shower tonight. No, the clouds were lowering and the snow was drifting down, and the darkness was already settling into every fold and crease of the rock face. But I thought I felt a shifting under my feet...

Two more nights, and then everything changes. I'll build a nice fire and hunker down. But I'll be dreaming, not of a white Christmas, but of the blessed return of the light, and of those long summer evenings on the water.

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