Sunday, December 11, 2011

Beautiful lunar eclipse from Orland Park

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The Lunar Eclipse on Saturday morning was beautiful. It wasn't easy to see the whole event from Orland Park, but we managed to see the "Penumbra" of the Earth's shadow cover the Moon and give it a reddish hue. Just before the moon set in the northwestern sky, the "Umbra" of the Earth's shadow (the darkest core of the shadow) began to cover the top left crest of the Moon. As that shadow grew on the Moon, the Moon made it's way down and north, out of site.

We were able to follow the lunar eclipse using our iPads. As the sun cast the Earth's shadow completely over the Moon, the sunlight light up the sky and the moon turned red again.

The first time I ever saw a solar eclipse was in the 1960s when I was young. We were at O'Hare airport waiting for a relative to arrive at the gate in the airport. Back then, anyone could walk right up to the gate and wait to greet people. (Today, only those who travel can wait at the gate and everyone else not traveling has to wait in the outer lobby past security.) There was no security back then. I was young, maybe nine years old at the time.

My father took a piece of paper and punched a tiny hole in it with his pen that he kept in his jacket pocket. He told me not to look at the Sun and then took the paper with the hole, held it flat towards the Sun and then with the other hand held another sheet of paper so a small dot began to appear on the second sheet of paper. As he carefully moved the two sheets apart, the dot turned into a brilliant replica of the Sun and you could see the Sun being covered by a little black circle. Eventually, it was completely covered by the Moon and the dot turned into a black spot with a bright circle around it.

The Lunar eclipse was easier to stare out and exciting. But technology made it a more fascinating experience. Friends in California and in Hawaii who had more time to watch the Earth's shadow cover the moon messaged me on Facebook to share their photos.

It all reminds us that there are some things that mean more than money, and that there are some things that can still manage to bring a family together to enjoy something so spectacular.

-- Ray Hanania

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