There was a lunar eclipse and a red moon a few weeks ago. The world watched the rare phenomenon and so did we. I remember seeing the Halley’s Comet about three decades ago, using the School telescope. The telescope was set up in our neighbor’s garden. There is a secret excitement and a strange lesson in mortality when looking at a comet that comes once in 75-76 years. That, by itself, was sensational enough for us to brave the cold nights to see the comet. The newspapers had been our source of knowledge and I think the news on state television made a statement too, but that was all. The rest of the buzz we created. I remember a lot of intent gazing and saying “Watdidocee?Isthatit?WOW!”
Now, I am tripping all over the internet over viewing pieces of it remnants : The Orionid Meteor Shower: Leftovers of Halley’s Comet
I can’t but help compare and contrast how we would have viewed it today’s times. Just as spottily is my guess, though we would have the pleasure of seeing the recording taken by somebody immensely more skilled at these things than myself.
Take for instance our viewing of the recent red-moon and lunar eclipse episode:
We set about viewing the eclipse in our customary fashion. That is to say, we made a complete muck of things: hashed a pig or two in the duck pen and squashed a rat.
The husband stood at the kitchen island, with a serious and urgent expression on his face. The daughter strolled in and said, “Oh – he must be playing chess!”
The affronted husband puffed out his chest and told her not to say trivial things like that. “I am, in fact, checking out a very important scientific phenomena that we can see in the skies today. “
The daughter, suitably chastened, went near him and cried, “He is on Facebook!”
“Yes, but checking to see whether the lunar eclipse started, not, you know, just face-booking.” he finished somewhat lamely.
The toddler son, flying his toy plane, and attempting a lunar landing, then explained the lunar eclipse to us: Moons can be red, blue or white (Is it American? No Everyone can see the moon when it is blue, red or white) and hide in the sun (Won’t it burn? No. Because Shadows are not hot.)
“So, why can’t you go out and check if the lunar eclipse started?” I asked. “After all, if people were saying so on Facebook, they must have done the same thing.”
This struck the children as sound logic, and they ran outside to see what was going on. They caught glimpses of a red moon and they charged in with the sensational news. The son ran into the house, taking his bass decibel levels to an excited high and the daughter came, tripping over her shoes as she took them off. I was, as is usual, in the evening, flopping about the kitchen looking efficient and determined. The urgent appeals from the whole family made me set dinner aside for the moment:
Just switch off the dinner. We can come back and eat.
Come fast. Now.
It takes a long time to cook. You are always cooking dinner.
I likes dinner.
They hustled me out of the house and we stood outside in a sort of anti-climax. The clouds, usually welcomed in the Bay area skies, were having a tough time figuring out why people were standing outside and grimacing at them like that. Hadn’t these very people been pandering for rain, and putting up mugshots of what clouds look like to make sure the populace did not forget? Now when the clouds did come and flit across the evening sky, there was animosity. Did they think moons brought rains? No. Clouds did. Very confusing for the cloud-body.
By now, of course, the husband had to take matters in his hand. He sprinted out to the street and then said we’d get a better view from the end of our street, so off we went leaving the door ajar. The husband, looking like an Admiral General in shorts, was directing his troops to better viewing positions. The children dutifully ran after him. He turned to bellow out further instructions, only to find his faithful wife running in the opposite direction. It is enough to rattle any Admiral. One cannot determine strategic spots with the errant soldier retreating. He stopped and the children skidded into him and they all bellowed at the recalcitrant soldier.
The problem was, there had been a spate of robberies of late, and I was loathe to leaving the door open. So, I doubled back to lock up, while the rest of the family ran. Questions, explanations, eye-rolls and lectures on how-to-live-in-the-moment and not miss lunar eclipses were happening when the daughter yelled – ‘There! There is the moon.” The mutinous Admiral and the penitent trooper, both abandoned earthly worries for the moment and gazed sky-ward to see the moon disappear once again.
The husband tried to take a picture with the phone, “There are far better photographs that are going to be shared at the end of the eclipse, why bother now?”, I said, like it was going to make a difference.
We gazed again only to find a twig obstructing our view of the clouds. The husband charged homeward saying he’d bring us the car, so we could all pile in and get a clearer view. I tried telling him that a better view can only be had above the clouds, but he had gone. He ran and I ran after him with the house keys, and we met each other mid-street (In case you thought the children missed this piece of action, they did not. The toddler thought we were playing, and ran after me. The daughter, tasked with looking after her little brother, ran after him.) Within minutes of this rhino-charge, the car came, with the husband panting in the driver seat and we jumped in and headed out to a open parking lot.
I don’t know whether you have observed children playing in the park. They run up and then they run down, they run left and they right. All with no apparent purpose. So do the child-like. After about 15 minutes of running this way and that, there was some heavy breathing, more useless photographs, and a state of dejection.
If aliens used this time to observe life on earth, I am afraid to say the news they carry back to their homing civilization cannot be a promising one. A lot of pointless running, needless pointing later, we decided to just head back home.
We entered our community when the clouds cleared again. Swearing loudly, off we leaped from the car, and charged out to see the eclipse. We saw a knot of our neighbors standing to view the eclipse too. They had, in their usual wise manner, skipped the drama and simply came out of their homes and raised their eyes.
This was the picture the internet showed us the next day:
Sigh! For those of you trying to view the Orionid Meteor Shower – I wish you a peaceful viewing. Let me know how it goes.