by Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter August 2007 and Boston City Paper September 2007.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007. I was up at the time my army friend Captain Fay refers to as “OH-DARK-THIRTY” (about 4:30am) and headed outside to take a look at the setting Moon, which was still bright white. Knowing the lunar eclipse would begin in less than 30 minutes, I grabbed my camera and tripod and headed to a large field in Sharon, yawning and wondering if I was crazy to be out driving to take pictures of the Moon when (apparently) everyone else was still snug in their beds.

But I am an astronomy buff, always have been. And lunar eclipses — the Moon’s appearance changing to orange, blood red, and brown as the Earth moves between the sun and Moon, casting its shadow on the lunar surface — are very rare events. Not to mention that this part of the country has been unlucky with its eclipses this year; the evening lunar eclipse back on March 2nd was obscured perfectly by low clouds and the Moon only appeared after the eclipse had ended, and this morning’s eclipse would be visible only for a very short time, as the Moon would be setting at 6:08 (just 16 minutes after totality) and sunrise was 6:06.

Despite the brevity of the event, it was worth the trip.

In the western sky, the setting Moon hung low, and the Earth’s shadow rapidly covered it from the top down, casting a dark and then orange glow on the lunar disk. A few stray clouds passing through the spectacle only added beauty to the phenomenon as they were lit up in yellow-white by the orange-white disk behind them.

It was very pretty, made more so by the absolute silence around me of a day that had not yet started. The sky had a purple color rather than black, and although the stars were still out and it felt like “night,” a warm, orange-yellow light was appearing softly in the east. A new day was being born. I know that’s overly poetic but dawn is like that — there IS a feeling in the air of newness and anticipation.

Although the Moon vanished below the horizon when it was only half covered, it was still impressive. The Moon is a little mysterious anyway, and a lunar eclipse makes the Moon a little spookier, but also more beautiful.

Although the show was brief, it was well worth rising early to see.

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