Pink Moon – or Blood Red?

You decide. Was last night’s full moon actually blood red, like the astronomers had promised? Or was it the Pink Moon I’d told you about in yesterday’s post?

I watched the lunar eclipse from northeastern Oklahoma. Well, at least the first hour. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

The Pink Moon, mentioned yesterday, is a term used by Native Americans, who named the moons according to their phases and cycles. It helped them keep track of the seasons, and to know when to plant and when to harvest. The name “Pink Moon” came from wild ground phlox, a cousin of the beautiful ground phlox we see blooming in landscapes everywhere this time of year. Phlox is one of the earliest blooming flowers of spring, and is widespread.

It so happened that this year’s Pink Moon coincided with the much rarer “Blood Moon,” a lunar eclipse. Last night’s eclipse was the first of what is called a Tetrad – four of these complete lunar eclipses on full moons occurring in a short period of time. The next happens in October 2014, and then April 2015 and September 2015.

News people created hype yesterday about the Blood Moon which would occur last night. I decided to stay up and watch it. I hadn’t done that before – not for a full lunar eclipse. I’d seen the full moon with a chunk out of it previously. However, the Blood Moon sounded spectacular.

The moon became totally fully about midnight, and then about an hour later, the eclipse began. I put on my coat and gloves, grabbed the binoculars, and stepped out into my backyard. At first, the moon glowed down from its place in the sky, easily viewable between the black, leafless limbs of the oak trees. I stepped back inside, then five minutes later came out again. I continued that process, going out and in as the earth’s shadow crept across the face of the moon.

Each time I stepped out, the moon looked different. It was like a mouse was nibbling away at one side of the moon. Yes, it was obvious when I used the binoculars that the moon was still there, the ‘missing’ bite looked greenish gray behind the shadow.

Slightly more than an hour later, the moon was almost entirely in shadow. One tiny arc of white remained on the right center edge. I found a good tree to lean against, and pulled the binoculars to my eyes, ready to watch the promised red glow circle the orb and turn the lunar surface blood red.

The sliver of silvery moonlight disappeared into the shadow. I waited. I moved the binoculars away from my eyes and looked up. Yes, the moon had a reddish look. I pulled the binocs up again and looked. Through those lenses, the moon had a greenish-red tint. No red rim. No blood.

Back and forth I moved the binoculars for the next five minutes, up to my eyes, down, up, down, up – and so on. Meanwhile, my teeth chattered and my hands shivered in the icy night air. (We had a freeze here last night.)

Finally, after watching for what seemed like another ten minutes (but probably only sixty seconds), I gave up. If a red glow was coming, I was going to miss it. I was just too cold, and it was after 2 a.m..

At that moment, a ‘pink-green’ moon seemed enough for me.

Maybe I’ll try again in October. After all, there are three more opportunities in this rare Tetrad. It will be easier to stay up and watch the second time, right?

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