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Norman Sperling
2625 Alcatraz Avenue #235
Berkeley, CA 94705-2702

cellphone 650 - 200 - 9211
eMail normsperling [at] gmail.com

Going, Going, Gone

© Norman Sperling, December 12, 2011

The total lunar eclipse on December 10th gave me an experience I have only had once before, even though this was not an especially dark eclipse as seen from the Pacific and Asia.

On December 30, 1963, the eclipsed Moon practically disappeared. From the roof of my apartment house in Silver Spring, Maryland, I could see stars as dim as 5th magnitude, but the Moon turned that dark, and I had trouble spotting it with my naked eye. Through the telescope the Moon was a dark and featureless grey-blue disc.

I watched the December 10, 2011, eclipse from San Mateo, California, through a slightly hazy sky. While most of the Moon looked pretty dark about 6:20 AM, the southern fringe was quite noticeably bright. The northern edge was almost invisible, and the area in between graduated in dull reds. Within a few minutes, the lighting pattern changed quite noticeably (in total lunar eclipses, the tints always change every few minutes), with the Moon fading appreciably in the gathering dawn. The sky didn't look all that bright, but the Moon was now so dim that it was harder and harder to notice much about it. By 6:37, only the slightly-bright lower-left edge could still be found, fading like the grin of a Cheshire cat. By 6:42, I couldn't even see that any more. The sky was brightening so much that the Moon was no longer visible with the unaided eye. The Full Moon disappeared from me again!

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