Wake up and watch the moon disappear

April 24, 2014 

I woke up at 3:10 a.m. April 15. Drat. Too late for the total lunar eclipse. The fabled Red Moon.

I had set the alarm for 2. Did I hit the snooze? Was I dreaming? I'll never know.

I threw on some clothes (hey, it was 32 degrees) and headed outside. About 3/4 of the moon was still in the Earth's shadow. Very cool. Just in case, I threw up my arms and waved like a madman.

Just like my dad told me to do. It was Pop who got me interested in skywatching way back when I was ... well, still in single digits.

Lots of nights, we sat out on the front porch. Pop blocked out the glare from the streetlight with one big hand and pointed to the Big Dipper with the other.

"Do you know why they call it the Big Dipper?"

Why? Eight-year-old minds want to know.

Because when it gets full, God dumps it over and pours rain all over us, Pop explained. And the rain would come down on me in trickles of tickles.

Sometimes, we looked for Mars because it twinkled pinkish. Or Venus because it was the brightest dot in the sky. Eventually, I got around to asking if there were really little green men out there. Pop never said "no." He always said, "You never know ..." And we'd look up some more.

We talked about what spaceships might look like. I wondered if there were flying cups to go with flying saucers. Sometimes, we kids would get flashlights and send coded light messages to any spacekids out there.

Flash. Flash flash flash. Flash.

You never know.

Which brings me to my first eclipse.

It was a clear summer night. I heard on the TV news there was going to be an eclipse of the moon in the wee hours, well after my 10 o'clock bedtime.

I swiped a wind-up alarm clock from Mom and Pop's room and stuck it under my covers so it wouldn't wake anybody else. It didn't. When I went down our creaky old stairs (my brothers claimed Pop loosened the nails so he could hear how late they came home), Pop woke up and asked where I was going.

"To watch the moon."

Instead of sending me back to bed, Pop went with me into the backyard and we lay on the grass with our hands clasped behind our heads. We watched until there was a little bite out of the moon.

That made sense because I once heard the moon was made out of cheese. Pop assured me it wasn't. But it could be a shadow from the Man in the Moon's nose. We talked about how far away the moon is and that they were talking about sending a man up there some day. I hoped it would be me.

We watched as the bite grew to a monster bite.

The moon was in the Earth's shadow, Pop explained. If there's anybody up there, maybe they can see our shadows right now.

So we got up, put my arms in the air and waved them around like madmen.

In case you missed it, you're not out of luck. April 15 was the first of four Blood Moons -- known as a tetrad -- that folks in North America will see between now and September 2015. It will make another appearance on Oct. 8 and next year on April 4 and Sept. 28.

Miss those, and you'll have to wait until 2032.

Let me know if you want a wake up call.

Belleville News-Democrat is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service