It was cloudy when I went to work last Thursday night (7P). A little after 9:30 my patient asked me to look for the moon out the window. It was clear and beautiful!
I turned my patients bed (IV, pleurovac, monitor leads and all) so he could see the almost totally covered moon low in the sky. We both loved it. My other patient was still in the ER and I had everything ready.
What a wonderful few minutes!
A total eclipse of the moon
May 15, 2003 - Earth will cast its shadow over the moon
Thursday night, giving people who tilt their heads toward
the sky a glowing treat - the first total lunar eclipse to be
seen around these parts in years.
Stargazers only need their eyes - not telescopes - to glimpse the
eclipse as the moon orbits past the Earth's huge shadow starting
around 8 p.m. and darkens totally about two hours later.
Though there's an average of two lunar eclipses each year (the next
one is Nov. 8), not all are equal. Some are stunning, such as the one
expected tonight - weather permitting - while others are pretty paltry.
In fact, the last good total lunar eclipse folks in Wisconsin ogled was
in January 2000.
"If the sky is clear, it's going to be really neat," said Jim Lattis,
director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Space Place.
The sky may or may not be clear. The National Weather Service in
Sullivan forecasts skies to be partly cloudy tonight, so there's a 50-50
chance the lunar eclipse can be seen in Wisconsin.
Providing that the skies are relatively clear, the moon could appear a
copper color, like a shining penny, because of "earthshine" - when
reflected light shines from the Earth to the moon and is bounced
back, said Christopher Sirola, an astronomer who teaches in
Marquette University's Physics Department.
If it weren't for the Earth's atmosphere, the moon would disappear
during a total eclipse. But because of atmospheric conditions such as
clouds and dust particles floating above the planet, the moon can
range in color from dark gray to blood red.
People who watch the eclipse out in the country are likely to see a
more colorful eclipse while those in metropolitan areas, where there's
much more ambient light, won't see quite as nice a show, said Sirola.
What makes this total lunar eclipse so special is that the moon will
appear larger because it will be very close to Earth. It will be only a
half-day past its perigee - the point in its orbit when it's closest to the
"It's as close to the Earth as it gets," Sirola said. "The moon orbits in
an ellipse instead of a circle so sometimes its orbit takes it far away,
but this time it's close."
During a total lunar eclipse, the moon passes through the outer part of
the Earth's shadow, called the penumbra, and the inner part, known
as the umbra, which is the darker of the two, said Lattis, who teaches
astronomy classes at UW-Madison. As the moon passes into the
umbra, it gets less and less light from the sun until it's plunged totally
While solar eclipses happen quite rapidly - they're usually over within
a few minutes - lunar eclipses take their own sweet time. Tonight's
will last about three hours, with the total eclipse, the time the moon is
entirely covered by the Earth's shadow, lasting 53 minutes, according
to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
Pretty much all of North and South America will see most or all of the
lunar eclipse. The rest of the world is out of luck because it will be
daylight when the eclipse is happening or the moon will not have risen
yet in that part of the globe.
Sirola suggests heading outdoors around 9 p.m. when Earth's shadow
will begin to cover the moon. The moon will be completely covered in
shadow from 10:14 to 11:07 p.m.
"It looks really strange, like a little bite is taken out of the moon," said
Sirola. "You can go outside every couple minutes and take a look,
but if you're really nuts, you can sit and stare at it for an hour."
UW-Madison's Space Place, 1605 S. Park St., will host a public
talk on the eclipse and will provide telescopes for better viewing
of it. For more information on the free event, call (608)