Lunar Eclipse, via Flickr

Cheetah100, via Flickr (CC license)
Last night’s total lunar eclipse.

Last night, after a day of mostly overcast skies in Boulder, CO, the clouds finally dissolved around 3am leaving a clear view of the total lunar eclipse. I was out in my driveway with my husband, who’d set up his whompous Meade LX 90 12-inch telescope, and was thrilled to see the moon “get eaten away” and turn blood red.

The most lyrical explanation I found of why the moon turns red during a total lunar eclipse is from this Science@NASA story: “With the Sun blocked, you might expect utter darkness, but no, the ground at your feet is aglow. Why? Look back up at Earth. The rim of the planet seems to be on fire. Around Earth’s circumference you see every sunrise and sunset in the world — all at once.”

I used that same explanation to my spellbound six-year-old neighbor, who (along with his mom) joined us at the scope for an unforgettable hour of viewing and discussion. He totally got it — including when I pointed at the ground to show him where the sun was: “Think through the earth,” I said. “OK, I can do that,” he replied seriously. He was quite taken with the eclipse.

Of course this morning I wanted to see photos of the eclipse from around the world, so I went to Flickr. I found lots of great photos from last night’s eclipse. Many of them include, in captions, people’s experiences of seeing this eclipse. Worth checking out. My very favorite is this one (you’ve gotta read the caption).

I’m finding that when something visually interesting happens, I tend to go straight to the photo-sharing sites to see first-hand independently produced images — often before I go to mainstream news coverage of the event. Especially with something like an eclipse.

The thing is, when you view an eclipse it’s generally a very personal experience. It’s not just looking out into space, but having a sense of where you are standing, and what the viewing conditions are there. It’s an intriguing personal connection with space — but it’s basically about two points in space.

In contrast, browsing Flickr the day after an eclipse lets you experience the eclipse through others’ eyes (well, at least their cameras) from wherever it was visible around the globe. This goes beyond the connecting of two mere points, and your perspective on the eclipse expands.

Worth a look.

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