Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Celestial Sightings

It's been quite a week for celestial sightings. On Saturday night, we got a great view of the International Space Station while the space shuttle was docked with it. We were having dinner with our friends the Newtons at 15 (very cool new Echo Park neighborhood restaurant) and we warned our waiter not to be alarmed if all of us jumped up mid-meal and walked out of the restaurant at 6:45pm. We did just that, and even on the sidewalk of a well-lit street in the city, we got a great view as the brilliant spot of light made a majestic 160-degree sweep of the sky in about 6 minutes, going nearly overhead. Kind of like a shooting star, but in slow motion. A few other curious diners stepped out to see what the fuss was about, and were duly impressed.

There was supposed to be a reprise on Monday night, and I got a bunch of colleagues at work revved up about it, but alas, the Monday evening skies were completely clouded over, and there was no hope. It reminded me of the one time I saw a solar eclipse, in Hawaii in 1992, or rather I saw the effects of an eclipse. We couldn't actually see the sun itself, as it was completely clouded over. But it did quite impressively grow dark.

I was worried that these clouds would hang over and obscure the lunar eclipse that was on for this evening, but today proved the opposite of Monday. The day's clouds gave way to mostly clear skies as the evening stars started showing, and the lunar eclipse was quite impressive, the full moon being in full shadow for about 50 minutes, and passing dramatically in and out of the earth's shadow for a half hour or so on either end.

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