I Said Blue Moon Is A-Comin’ In Lunar Eclipse Real Soon—Comin’ Your Way Jan. 31,–Don’t Swoon, Just Croon At That Grand Ole Moon

This is going to be terrific.  Hat Tip to Solly for reminding me of this event.

On Wednesday, Jan. 31st, the second full Moon of January will pass through Earth’s shadow, producing a rare “Blue Moon Lunar Eclipse.” The Moon won’t look blue, however. Researchers are predicting a bright orange eclipse–a forecast based on studies of recent volcanic activity. Volcanoes, climate change, and lunar eclipses are linked in ways that might surprise you.  But that is for another science post down the road.

The eclipse will be visible from Asia, Australia, and western parts of North America. In the USA, the best time to look is during the hours before sunrise. The Moon makes first contact with the core of Earth’s shadow at 3:48 am Pacific Time, kicking off the partial eclipse. Totality begins at 4:52 am PST as Earth’s shadow engulfs the lunar disk for more than an hour. “Maximum orange” is expected around 5:30 am PST.

‘Uncle Walter’ Cronkite Would Be 100 Years Old Today

If you were alive in the 1960s or ’70s, you tuned in to “Uncle Walter” on your TV for the most important news of the day.  Known as “the most trusted man in America,” Walter Cronkite was a legendary broadcast journalist many turned to for decades to get the latest news on World War II, Watergate and the Vietnam War, among other things. In honor of the 100th anniversary of his birth, Google created an animated doodle highlighting some key moments in his career, including his memorable reports on the assassination of President John Kennedy and the Apollo 11 moon landing.

My grandparent’s home produced many memories for me in my childhood.  They lived across the road from my family out in the country, and since we did not a have TV while I was a young boy, it was a pleasure to head over the road to watch the big events, such as the moon landing on the console television set.  The astronauts would change, as would the number of the Apollo mission, but the anchor of the CBS News broadcasts stayed ever-present and informative.  Walter Cronkite was as much a fan of the unfolding drama as we were in that living room.

I recall a Saturday morning as if it were yesterday that Walter Cronkite explained with a plastic model of the moon buggy about how it would operate, and what precautions needed to be taken to insure its successful movements on the lunar surface.  I sat there in rapt attention, and Grandma true to form for these big occasions would have chips or cookies to nibble on.  She sat in a larger chair off to the side and behind me, while I sat on the sofa and we would watch Walter on that large console TV set.

Later I would re-create the events in my backyard and the green grass at my parent’s home would be the gray surface of the moon.  Walter’s voice of the events unfolding would echo in my head as I moved slowly to impersonate the gravity free conditions that the famed astronauts encountered.   Now at age 54 I am not able to separate the space adventure with the broadcasts of ‘Uncle’ Walter.  They will forever be joined in my mind, and I am glad for that.

While there are many reporters and anchors, there are few models of ethical journalism that meet the standards that Cronkite carried on his shoulders for decades. He is remembered for embodying a reporting approach based in objectivity, accuracy, fairness and integrity. He was also an outspoken advocate for respecting the standards of responsible journalism.

I still miss him these decades later.

How To Watch Tonight’s Total Lunar Eclipse

First have a clear sky.

This first total lunar eclipse of 2014 is set to begin tonight (April 14) into the wee hours of Tuesday morning (April 15). The lunar eclipse is set to begin at about 2 a.m. EDT (0600 GMT), and it should last about 3.5 hours. The eclipse should be visible, weather permitting, through most of North America and part of South America


After that……here is what you need to know.

Four Blood Moons Coming Your Way–Look Upwards

Hat Tip To Solly.

This is just another thing for some to fret over.


For the rest of us it is just a great event to watch play out.  

What is unusual about this month’s lunar eclipse is that it is the first of a series of four total lunar eclipses in a row. Called a tetrad, such a series of four total eclipses in a row is a fairly rare event. The last such series happened in the years 2003 and 2004. It will only occur seven more times in the current century.

So while a tetrad of total lunar eclipses is somewhat rare, it is not extraordinarily so, and probably nothing to make a fuss about. After all, the only thing that happens during a lunar eclipse is that the moon spends a couple of hours passing through the Earth’s shadow, hardly something to be concerned about.

Unfortunately, there are still many superstitious people in the world. Such is the case in the book “Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change” (Worthy Publishing, 2013) by John Hagee, which suggests a link between the new total lunar eclipse tetrad and biblical prophecy about the end times. 

When the mechanisms behind eclipses were less well understood, they were thought to be omens of bad tidings, just as comets were. Now people know that these are just normal events in the clockwork of the solar system, things which have occurred regularly for thousands of years and which will occur for thousands of years into the future.

Associations between “disastrous” events and normal astronomical events are all fabrications of the human mind, as people attempt to find explanations for why disasters affect them. Because of the Internet and cable news channels, people now hear reports of disasters from around the world, including earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions, which they never would have been aware of in the past. It’s almost inevitable that something bad will happen right after an eclipse or a visit from a comet.

As an ardent skywatcher who derives much pleasure from beautiful events like lunar eclipses, it saddens me that there are “prophets of doom” in the world who view these life-enriching events as portents of disaster.

The good news about these forthcoming lunar eclipses is that all four will be visible to most skywatchers in North America. I hope that you will manage to observe one or more of them, and share their beauty with your friends. The eclipse on April 15 will require most North Americans to stay up into the wee hours of the morning, but it will be well worth it.

China Suffers Loss Of Moon Rover, Blow To Space Mission

While there have been some media reports that China’s lunar rover, Yutu – or Jade Rabbit–has been showing some signs of ability to communicate recently, the main story seems to remain that the rover is so disabled that it can not meet the needs for a major mission that is central to China’s space program.

The first moon rover sent out by China “could not be restored to full function”, the state-owned China News Service said in a brief report. The landmark mission had run into mechanical problems last month.

The Jade Rabbit, or Yutu in Chinese, was deployed on the moon’s surface on 15 December and was a huge source of pride in China, only the third country to complete a lunar rover mission after the US and former Soviet Union.

The landing was a key step forward in Beijing’s ambitious military-run space programme, which includes plans for a permanent orbiting station by 2020 and eventually person sent to the moon.

The silver rover had a mechanical control abnormality late January due to “the complicated lunar surface environment”, according to the official Xinhua news agency. It had been unable to function since then.

Condolences poured in on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service, where internet users mourned the demise of the rover, China News Service said in its brief report entitled Loss of lunar rover.

Nearly Full Moon Over Waunakee, Wisconsin

Thanks to RailPro

‘Supermoon’ Coming To Your Sky Saturday Night, March 19th

Ok, this is both fun, and a little complicated.  As such I post the entire article.    With that I wish you a cloudless sky and someone you like enough to enjoy the moon with. 

Much ado has been made about the so-called “supermoon” that will take place tonight. Tonight’s full moon will nearly coincide with the moon’s arrival at the perigee point in its orbit around the Earth, resulting in the closest and biggest full moon in our sky since March 1993.

Or will it?

On Saturday night, the moon will arrive at perigee at 19:09 UT (3:09 p.m. Eastern Time). Its distance from the Earth at that moment will be 221,565 miles. But just over three years ago, on Dec. 12, 2008, which was also the night of a full moon, the moon reached perigee at 21:39 UT (4:39 p.m. Eastern Time) at a distance of 221,559 miles, about 6 miles closer than Saturday night’s perigee distance.

So it seems Saturday night’s supermoon will actually be just a little less super than the full moon of Dec. 2008.

Despite this fact, Geoff Chester of the United States Naval Observatory says tonight’s full moon is still the winner for closeness of a full moon. How is that possible? 

A lunar loophole

Chester points out that on Dec. 12, 2008, the moon reached fullness at 16:37 UT, while perigee was at 21:39. That’s a difference of just over five hours. So when the moon turned full that night, it was still five hours away from reaching its closest point to Earth; its distance at the moment it turned full was 221,587 miles.

In contrast, today’s full moon occurs at 18:10 UT, while perigee occurs at 19:09; the difference being less than an hour. So today, when the moon officially turns full, its distance from Earth will be 221,566 miles.

So even though the moon actually came a little closer to Earth in December 2008, if we compare distances when the moon officially turns full, today’s full moon wins out by a scant 21 miles. 

But for North Americans … second place!

In all fairness, we should also point out that on Dec.12, 2008, the moment that the moon officially turned full was not visible in North America because it occurred during the daytime, when the moon was below the horizon.

And that very same circumstance will also occur at the moment today’s moon turns full (2:10 p.m. Eastern Time; 11:10 a.m. Pacific Time); the moon will again be out of sight for North Americans.
So back on Dec. 12, 2008 — as will be the case tonight — when millions of people cast their gaze toward the moon, it really wasn’t a “full” moon, but rather a waning gibbous moon. The same case will hold true tonight.

Certainly, to all of us who look up at it tonight’s moon, it will appear “full,” but keep in mind that the actual moment when the moon’s disk became 100 percent illuminated will have already passed many hours earlier. Although not readily perceptible to most eyes, tonight’s moon will be waning or diminishing in illumination. Rather than seeing it fully illuminated, tonight we will see it at about 99.8 percent illumination).

Who’s first?

In addition, the moon that North Americans will see with their own eyes tonight will actually run a very close second to that of Dec. 12, 2008, in terms of distance.
From Boston, for instance, when the moon comes over the eastern horizon this evening, it will be 221,580 miles away. 

But on Dec. 12, 2008, at moonrise, Bostonians saw the moon ever-so-slightly closer, at 221,559 miles; again, just a scant 21 mile difference. That’s because in 2008, the moon took more than five hours to reach its perigee point after it turned full. The moon was arriving at the closest point in its orbit just as darkness had begun to fall and the moon was beginning to appear over North America.

As Geoff Chester has already pointed out above, today’s full moon and moment of perigee occur within less than an hour of each other, during the late morning/early afternoon hours for North America.

By the time darkness is falling and the moon begins appearing over the eastern horizon for North Americans, it will have already been slowly receding from Earth and so it will be a little farther away than it was in 2008.

But don’t let all this stop you from going out tonight and enjoying the sight of this, the “biggest moon of 2011.” The moon is, after all, our nearest neighbor in space, Earth’s eternal companion and friend.

And let’s face it … what’s 21 miles among friends?