Sunday, December 18, 2011

Lunar eclipse

6:10 a.m.
Our local paper reported that there would be a lunar eclipse on Saturday, December 11, 2011. The total eclipse was to occur between 6 and 7 a.m. The report said that the event would only be visible if you were at a relatively high elevation or at the coast because the moon would be so close to the horizon at the time of the eclipse. Over coffee on Friday my friend, JoAnn, and I decided to meet at the top of a hill (Fountaingrove) that's 800' according to Google and is near both of our houses. I got up at 4 and looked out the window to see if the sky was clear. I could easily see the beginning of the eclipse just below the canopy of the Valley oak in our backyard. It was hard to imagine that the moon would be very close to the horizon in only two hours. JoAnn, thinking similar thoughts, called me at 5:45 to say that she could see it from her yard, too. We considered meeting at her house to watch but decided it would be more fun to go up the hill as planned.
6:35 a.m.
It was 35º F (2º C) so I dressed warmly, packed my binoculars and sketch gear and scraped the ice off of my car windows before heading out. JoAnn and her family were already parked when I arrived. We were near an area designated as an open space with some homes on the other side of the street. A young German shepherd was roaming about and seemed very excited to have company. The eclipse was well under way and I got out some paper and a pen to begin sketching, using a nifty head lamp I'd bought for just such an occasion. I seemed to be having a hard time seeing the moon and commented to JoAnn about it. We both tried looking through binoculars but that made it worse. It was past 6 and it was our understanding that the moon was supposed to get bigger as it neared the horizon and turn a strong red color. Oh, and be fully eclipsed. My first sketch showed the moon way too big. The actual size appears above the sky. As we watched the moon sank lower in the sky and grew harder and harder to see. As the sun rose and the sky grew lighter we were able to see that a thin haze of clouds hovered low in the sky, causing the eclipsing moon to look hazy and blurred. The moon did get a bit bigger as it went lower but it never seemed to be totally eclipsed. At about 6:45 we decided that a nice warm breakfast sounded a bit more interesting than the fuzzy, eclipsed moon. I took one last look, cranked up the heater in my car and went home to eat breakfast then  had some fun coloring my sketches from memory.


  1. How detailed was your outdoor sketch before your indoor coloring?

  2. It just isn't fair ... you paid your dues, i.e. getting up in the wee hours of a chilly morning and then to have it just fade into haze. Bummer. I figured I didn't have a ghost of a chance because of our morning fog. I took a quick peek outside and went back to bed. A cooperative eclipse is wonderful. I love how they glow beautiful plum colors. Still, you got to see some of it.
    Your sketches are great.

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  4. Thanks for sharing the experience. Too early, cold and dark outside for me to venture out there for the view

  5. How wonderful that you went out there and did that. AND that you had a friend to go with. Thats my problem no partner in crime. LOL!

  6. Love this, Debbie! You know I'm a sucker for a moonscape :) I still carry a smile for getting up at 2 am for the total lunar eclipse last December. I know you will feel this internal joy for a long time :) Wish it had been clearer for you. Sometimes my moons are larger than normal but I've come to feel that my heart see it that much bigger than the moon is in the sky!

  7. Great sketches Debbie. I wouldn't worry too much about your moon sketch being bigger than it actually was. I had a painting teacher who always said "never let the truth get in the way of a good painting." Artistic license!

  8. Anonymous: I really just colored what was already drawn.
    Elva: It was still fun to get up and at least we got to see something and not just a fog bank.
    Jinxxygirl: I'm usually solo, too, so it was a big treat to have a partner in crime!
    Pam: I've loved your moon paintings for a long time! Getting up at 4 was easy for me. I'm not sure I would've done it at 2!
    Paula: thank you for reminding me that I can take liberties if I want to.

  9. VERY cool, Debbie! I didn't get to see it at all, because we didn't get home from Nevada till 1:30 in the morning. Too tired to try!


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