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Despite the hype, it was just your average lunar eclipse


"Blood moon," my hemorrhoids .

At least in downtown Des Moines, this morning's lunar eclipse was a burnt orange a little darker than the piping on the Bears' uniforms. Maybe Texas Longhorn orange. Which is about average for a lunar eclipse. I've seen a couple of brick red ones in my time, but dark orange is the norm

I don't know where this "blood red moon" business came from. An even bigger mystery is why, though I knew better, I bought into it. Now that I look back on it, I should have wondered when the hype was first being dished out. The color of an eclipse is largely a function of the amount of dust in the atmosphere, and I haven't read about any recent Krakatoa or Mt. Pinatubo or Mt. St. Helen's or Yellowstone Super Volcano eruptions, or the onset of nuclear winter (though I'm beginning to wonder about that last one; Spring lasted all of two days here). So I can't imagine why anybody thought we even might have a "blood red" eclipse. And contrary to one rather, er.... extraordinary suggestion I encountered on line, lunar eclipses are always various shades of orange and red. They are never, EVER pink!

This morning's event was nothing special- just an average, ordinary, typical lunar eclipse, which itself is a frequent and common event. So why all the hype? Probably, I guess, because we hadn't had one since 2011. That's unusual; we often have two or three in the same year- the next one will be on October 8- and unlike solar eclipses, totality occurs over the entire night side of the planet!

It would probably be going to far to say that if you've seen one lunar eclipse, you've seen them all. In fact, if you've seen one lunar eclipse- this morning's for example- you've merely seen most of them. Unusual eclipses do occur- but only if there's a fairly drastic reason for them to be unusual.

Nevertheless, come October 8 I'll be out there again watching the moon slip into Earth's shadow. As an astronomy addict, it's in my blood.

The real show, of course, will be the total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017. For a change it won't be the islanders in the middle of the Pacific Ocean or the inhabitants of the frozen Canadian tundra who will see the show; the path of totality (below) runs right across the middle of the United States!

Somehow, I'm going to have to figure out how to get to Kentucky, where the duration of totality is longest, on that day.

Or at least Omaha.



 

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