Dark and Peaceful

Tonight’s lunar eclipse as observed from Tawa, near Wellington, New Zealand was pleasantly dark and free of the roseate glow that might be expected to be seen from a polluted planet.

Observing conditions for the total lunar eclipse were not expected to be ideal here, after a morning during which low cloud hugged the hills under the influence of a moist southerly. As the afternoon progressed, the southerly persisted but the cloud level rose, alternating between heavy and light cloud cover.

The early stages of the total lunar eclipse were seen through drifting southerly cloud but, by 9-30 p.m. clear patches began to hold sway over the fleeting patches of cloud.

The lunar eclipse entered totality with sharp seeing conditions and fleeting low-level cloud. The Moon was remarkably dark throughout totality, showing a healthy pale glow free of the reddish hues that can be contributed from a smoky or dusty atmosphere here on Earth.

Altogether an enjoyable experience, and one that may have the doom-and-gloom brigades wishing it had been worse in the desperate hope it might illustrate a more dire situation here on planet Earth.

The simple fact is that a total lunar eclipse tells us something about heavy particulate matter in the atmosphere by turning the Moon’s face reddish under scattered light, but little about chemical content. At this time of year we are free of the Indonesian burn-offs and the Australian bushfires, and there has been no major volcanic eruption ejecting matter into the atmosphere in recent times. Even the disastrous fires in Greece in recent weeks have contributed little pollution to the planet’s atmosphere. So Earth’s clear atmosphere scattered little light across the Moon’s face during the period of the total eclipse, leaving our planet’s shadow to do its work and darken the Moon’s disc.

For those who saw the event it was as exciting as it must have been for the ancients, seeing a celestial body darkened by an unusual, but natural phenomenon. But we know more about these things, nowadays, and don’t have to start planning for plagues of locusts, death and destruction tomorrow. But no doubt the peddlers of carbon credits will still be at it when the Sun rises in the east in the morning. But that’s a different story…

One Response to “Dark and Peaceful”

  1. Dorothy says:

    It certainly was lovely to see the Earth bathed in such a warm coloured glow, A plague on the doom and gloom merchants!

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