If you are reading this in the US, then you have probably been bombarded with overwrought moon-related informational detritus over the past few days due to the simultaneous occurrence of (1) a total lunar eclipse (“blood moon”); (2) the absurdly-named “supermoon”, meaning that a full moon coincides with the moon’s monthly closest approach to Earth; and (3) a so-called “blue moon”, which — though there are varying definitions — is simply the second full moon in a calendar month.
Individually, these events are not rare and carry pretty much zero scientific significance. But when they all happen at the same time then….. they still carry pretty much zero scientific significance. However, NASA and similar space-related organizations love them because it’s easy to get the news and social media all wound up so that everyone is suddenly interested in astronomy and agrees that those organizations need funding increases.
And when I say “wound up”, I mean “wound up”. My friend Michelle Thaller is a NASA spokesperson and frequent (and very ebullient) astronomy talking head on the Discovery Channel and news programs, and she reports with amazement and exhaustion that she did seventy interviews in the 24 hours leading up to the eclipse. I will have to ask her how that is even physically possible.
Totality began at 3 AM in Hawaii, and skies were clear, so we set the alarm to wake us up in the middle of the night and get this picture:
It was a spectacular sight, nestled in a crystalline sky where, unlike during non-eclipse times, the disk of the full moon did not wash out the many, many stars. We oohed and aahed in genuine delight. Our oohs and aahs, however, were perhaps a little on the loud side, as a few moments later our next door neighbor’s window opened and he reminded us with understandable peevishness that did we realize it was 3 AM, fer chrissake? Oops… many apologies. I will have to ply him and his wife with malasadas later as a peace offering.