Human Condition: Viewing total lunar eclipse a double pleasure _lowres


On the evening of Sept. 27, as the time drew near for watching the eclipse of the moon, I enjoyed the moment with my husband, Kelly.

We realized that we’ll both be 80 years old when this magical and beautiful drama in the night sky will once again appear. We hope we’ll be around and again able to appreciate the splendor of this glimpse of God’s creation. But, if not, we have precious memories of viewing the total lunar eclipse on this enchanted evening.

Creating a comfy “outdoor theater setting,” Kelly set up two lawn chairs for us right in the middle of our driveway, where we had a perfect view of the unfolding drama.

Clouds kept it from being as spectacular as it might have been, but during the moments of changing colors and scenes, I was treated to a personal physics lesson, lovingly and clearly taught by Kelly (a retired chemistry and physics professor and the best teacher ever.) Over the years he made science come alive for thousands of students in high school and college, but this time his interesting lecture was just for me.

I learned that total lunar eclipses are sometimes referred to as “blood moon” because of the reddish colors the eclipsed moon takes on during totality. This happens because of “Rayleigh scattering,” the same mechanism that causes colorful sunrises and sunsets.

And, along with other details, I learned that a total lunar eclipse happens when the sun, Earth and moon form a straight line. Then the Earth blocks any direct sunlight from reaching the moon’s surface. The sun’s light casts the Earth’s shadow on the moon. Pretty amazing.

Besides having a science lesson, we made a party of this sky-gazing, toasting the joy of it all, Kelly with a glass of his favorite merlot and me with a pomegranate martini.

It was a truly beautiful experience. As we gazed, we reminisced, recalling meeting astronaut Alan Bean, who had actually walked on the mysterious moon, whose eclipse we now watched in awe. Our autographed copy of his book, “Alan Bean Painting Apollo, First Artist on Another World,” detailing his experiences in space in words and paintings, and his vivid memories of exploring the moon, is a treasure.

I’m calling these memories “Twice, the Glory!” Why? Because these days, with my vision challenges — a part of aging for some of us — I often have double vision in the evenings. When I watched the spectacular color changes, I saw it all — not once, but twice.

So, for me, it was “twice the glory.” And the romantic in me also connects this title to the joy in experiencing it with the love of my life.

— Runnels lives

in Baton Rouge

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