By the Light of a Fast-Fading Moon

On Tuesday, Sky Guide, a handbook-to-the-heavens-on-your-screen which our family uses, sent me a notification that early the next morning there would be a lunar eclipse + blood moon + supermoon. I didn’t take action in the evening, but at two-something a.m. I woke up randomly, looked up times, and set an alarm for around the three-something the eclipse was supposed to start at. When the alarm went off, I got some brothers, my nature journal, and the first pencil-stub I could find, and headed outside. The boys went back in pretty soon, but I stayed out to do my conscientious duty as a Charlotte Mason student—something I do more dutifully in interesting or unusual situations—and wrote about the eclipse as best I could. So here’s a transcription of it—slightly edited, because I wrote it in the wee hours of the morning by bad light—as my first post here; a piece of writing influenced both by the education I’m being given and my ongoing attempts to put words to the world.

1/31/18—Lunar eclipse

~3:50 am

The visible part of the eclipse is just starting, and I’m sitting on the side of the driveway shivering. In addition to undergoing an eclipse, tonight the moon is an extra-large “supermoon.” It is very large and bright and casts distinct shadows. The pencil lines appear to fade in and out rather, but it’s even possible to write by—but a little hard, so please pardon the handwriting. While writing I am noticing the slice cut off the edge of the moon getting larger when I look up. The night is pretty clear, but there’s a thin cloud layer; you can see the moon through it easily, but not many stars are visible and the moon has a faint white halo at about the distance from stretched thumb-tip to pinky-tip held at arm’s length. The edge of earth’s shadow can now be seen to be curved, but it is not nearly as curved as the moon’s bite from the sun last August. Writing is getting dimmer and harder, but it’s nice to have an eclipse you can stare at without special glasses. Now the moon is almost half obscured. It is possible that it has a ruddy tinge—this is supposed to be a blood moon as well—but the visible part of its disk looks dimmer now we I (the boys went back inside ere I started writing) can’t see the whole thing. This writing is hard.

Note at top of the page: the thermometer out back says 37°

Caption by sketch: even harder to draw than to write by scant moon-light!

1/31/18—Lunar eclipse

~4:50 am—After watching for a while, I went back inside for around half an hour, and now wish I hadn’t! When I went inside the mostly white moon was more than half obscured by a dark, somewhat convex shadow. I was noticing dimmer light and more stars. Coming out again, I expected to see no apparent moon or a slight sliver disappearing behind a shadow. One expectation was met, that there would be much less light; the stars look almost new-moon bright, and I wouldn’t be writing this if not for my headlamp. But the moon did not look as I expected! This, I suppose, is where the prognosticated “blood moon” bit comes in; the disk was lit at the bottom and up the edges, as in my drawing above-right—and the lit part was definitely reddish! The red has now faded, and the moon is somewhat dimmer and less lit, I think, than when I came out. Also, it’s sinking—this time I’m sitting on the asphalt above the driveway to be able to see (cold). I can see and recognize Cassiopeia and the big dipper. Cassiopeia has moved from where I saw her at the beginning of the night. I saw Orion at the beginning of the night, but don’t now; I don’t know if he’s set or I’m just in the wrong spot (on a local level) to see him. I saw a meteor a little bit ago!