I Can’t Stop Thinking About The Eclipse.

2017 Eclipse

I can’t stop thinking about the eclipse.

I thought I pretty much knew what to expect from the 2017 solar eclipse. I understood the science. I had already witnessed a few partial/annular eclipses. I’ve been anticipating the event for a few years now and had read about the sensory changes I could expect to witness. I had a few good viewing locations scoped out with choices depending on the cloud coverage or crowds we might run into that day. My 3 1/2-year-old twins had plenty of food, water, sunscreen, eclipse glasses, and excitement. We were prepared for the event. But I soon learned that nothing could prepare me for the experience.

We had a perfect location on a ridge near Muddy Mountain Wyoming that provided 360 degree views. We were away from the crowds. And most importantly it was cloudless with 2 minutes and 18 seconds of anticipated totality.

We spent an hour watching the partial eclipse and eating a picnic lunch in the shade provided by some old, scraggly, Limber Pines. Eventually, the temperature began to drop slowly. Soon our surroundings dimmed and crickets began to chirp. I found myself caught off guard by the strangeness of my environment. The landscape appeared rosy and dimmed – as if I was wearing sunglasses. My stomach flipped with anticipation and anxiety caused by the surreality of my surroundings.

Quickly, much faster than I anticipated, darkness descended on us. The disorienting passage of time was head-spinning. I took my eclipse glasses off to see if I could see the umbra race toward us from across the valley below. But it happened too quickly. It was with a ridiculous suddenness that the moon’s shadow had shrouded us. I quickly turned around and looked up and saw the eclipsed sun glowing in the sky and my brain turned inside out.

My fingers fumbled around for my camera phone and I somehow managed to capture the image above. I tried to take a video of the “sunset” that surrounded us in every direction, but I only managed to catch these three seconds. I was overwhelmed.

The corona was much more bright and lustrous than I envisioned. It shone bright white and with a jaw dropping brilliance. We were all bewildered with its beauty and absolute strangeness. To look up into the sky and see a sparkling shine, unlike anything I have ever seen in my years of looking at the heavens. To share this with my wife and children.

And then it was gone. And now I can’t stop thinking about the eclipse.

Project Apollo Archive 41

The Moon 1968–1972

Project Apollo Archive 41

During all six of NASA’s manned lunar landings, astronauts were armed and trained to use modified Hasselblads. During the Apollo missions, NASA’s astronauts took photos of moon landings, moon walks, the lunar surface, the horizon, and the Earth with these cameras. The results included over 20,000 photographs by 13 astronauts over six lunar landing missions. This huge trove of photographs are cataloged at The Project Apollo Archive. NASA also released a large number of these photos on Flickr back in 2015. The photo above is one of my favorites from this collection.

Though shot originally for scientific purposes, many of the photos have an extraordinary aesthetic value that encompasses an inadvertently artful composition. The fine folks at T. Alder Books have sorted through the nearly 15,000 of these photos and came up with 45 images that consist of “unintended artful compositions” and a “beautiful, deft outtake quality,”. The collection will be released in a book entitled The Moon 1968–1972 that will be released later this month.

At a time when archival images are often hastily assembled into digital galleries that get passed around briefly on social media, it’s especially satisfying to sit with an affordable ($18), carefully edited, designed and printed archive of photographs of historical significance and esthetic value. Texts include excerpts from a speech President John F. Kennedy made about the Apollo program, and from an E.B. White story for The New Yorker recalling the first moon landing.

Pluto's Spinning Moons

Pluto’s Spinning Moons

Pluto's Spinning Moons

Most inner moons in the solar system keep one face pointed toward their central planet, much like our own moon. This is called gravitational locking, or tidal locking. The gif above shows that certainly isn’t the case with the small moons of Pluto, which behave like spinning tops. Pluto is shown at center with, in order, from smaller to wider orbit: Charon (which you can see is actually tidally locked), Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra (which all spin).

Names And Types Of Full Moons

Tonight’s full moon will be a “blue moon”. Despite its name, blue moons are not that rare of an event. The next blue moon is less than three years away in July of 2015. On average, blue moons come around once every 2.7 years. Some years even have two blue moons. This happened in 1999. In 2018 there will be two blue moons and a black moon.

There are two definitions for a blue moon. The original definition, given by the Maine Farmers’ Almanac (published in 1937), says that a blue moon is the third full moon in a season — spring, summer, autumn or winter — that has four full moons instead of the usual three. However the definition changed when J. Hugh Pruett, writing in the March 1946 issue of Sky and Telescope, misinterpreted the original definition to mean the second full moon in any given month. That version was popularized after being repeated in a broadcast on National Public Radio’s Star Date in 1980. The second-full-moon-in-a-month definition was also used in the board game Trivial Pursuit as well as education materials in the 80’s and the definition has stuck! You can read the long version of this story at Sky & Telescope. Below are lists of the many other types of full moons.


Monthly Full Moons

Wolf Moon (or Old Moon, The Moon After Yule)
This is the first full moon in January and it has its own awesome t-shirt. The Algonquin name for this full moon is Squochee Kesos or “sun has not strength to thaw”. Native Americans each have their own names for the year’s full moons
Snow Moon (or Quickening, Hunger Moon)
The First full moon in February is called the snow moon for obvious reasons. Quickening is the stage of pregnancy when the fetus is first felt to move. The February full moon lets us know that the birth of new life (spring) is months away yet.
Worm Moon (or Sap Moon, Death Moon)
As the ground thaws, night crawlers emerge during the evening hours and point themselves toward moonlight. The first Full moon in March can also refer to the tapping of maple trees.
Pink Moon (or Egg Moon)
The first Full moon in April. This moon has its own song.
Flower Moon (or Milk Moon)
The bountiful blooms of May give its full moon the name flower moon in many cultures.
Strawberry Moon (or Rose Moon or Honey Moon)
The harvesting of strawberries in June gives that month’s full moon its name. Sometimes referred to as a honey moon because it stays close to the horizon in June, and that makes it appear more amber
Buck Moon (or Thunder Moon)
Male deer, which shed their antlers every year, begin to regrow them in July, hence the Native American name for July’s full moon.
Sturgeon moon (or Red Moon, Grain Moon, Green Corn Moon)
North American fishing tribes called August’s full moon the sturgeon moon since the species was abundant during this month. It is also often called the Red Moon for the reddish hue it often takes on in the summer haze.
Beaver moon (or Mourning Moon)
The origin of the name for first Full moon in November is disputed. It’s named either for the Abundance of Beaver trappings or for the large amount of dam building activity among the flat-tailed aquatic animal.
Cold moon
The coming of winter earned December’s full moon the name cold moon.

Other Types Of Full Moons

Black Moon
There is a range of, often contradictory, definitions of a black moon. Some suggest it is when there are two dark cycles of the moon in any given calendar month. Others say it’s when no full moon is present in a calendar month (This can only ever happen in February).
Blue Moon
Probably the most popular of the special moons, a blue moon is the second full moon in any given month.
Wet Moon (Cheshire Moon)
A wet moon is a lunar phase when the “horns” of the crescent moon point up at an angle, away from the horizon. This is caused by the relative angles of the moon’s orbit about the Earth and the Earth’s axial tilt compared to the Sun. During the extreme points of the Earth’s orbit the moon appears to rise almost vertically, so the moon’s crescent takes on the appearance of a bowl or a smile.
New Moon
A New moon is actually a moon phase. A new moon occurs when the moon lies closest to the Sun in the sky as it is seen from the Earth. The Moon is not visible at this time unless it is seen in silhouette during a solar eclipse. It can be considered a “dark full moon”. The new moon holds a lot of meaning in both religious and astrological calendars.
Super Moon
Let us not forget our colorful super moon.
Hunters Moon/Harvest Moon
The hunter’s moon is the first full moon after the harvest moon, which is the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox. These Moons are special because the time of moonrise between successive evenings is shorter than usual. The moon rises approximately 30 minutes later, from one night to the next, for several evenings around the full Hunter’s and Harvest Moons. Thus there is a much shorter period of darkness between sunset and moonrise around the time of these full moons, allowing hunters and farmers to work well into the evening. Each of these moons can be in September or October depending on the year.
Blood Moon
The term Blood Moon in Biblical prophecy appears to have been popularized by two Christian pastors, Mark Blitz and John Hagee. They use the term Blood Moon to apply to the full moons of the ongoing tetrad – four successive total lunar eclipses, with no partial lunar eclipses in between, each of which is separated from the other by six lunar months (six full moons)

A list of Events Taking Place In The Very Distant Future

Below is a list of events, given present scientific understanding and models, that are expected to occur in the far future. Entities affected include humans, the Earth, the galaxy and the known Universe. Predictions include the fields of biology, geology, astrophysics, cosmology, and particle physics. It should be noted that several alternate future events are listed to account for questions still unresolved.

  • 10,000 years from now – The end of humanity, according to Brandon Carter’s Doomsday Argument, which assumes that half of the humans who will ever have lived have already been born.
  • 10,000 years from now – The Earth’s axial tilt reaches a minimum of 22.5 degrees. The Gregorian calendar will be roughly 10 days out of sync with the Sun’s position in the sky.
  • 25,000 years from now – The Arecibo Message, a collection of radio data transmitted on 16 November 1974, reaches its destination, the globular cluster Messier 13. This is the only interstellar radio message sent to such a distant region of the galaxy.
  • 50,000 years from now – Niagara Falls erodes away the remaining 20 miles to Lake Erie and ceases to exist.
  • 100,000 years from now – Proper motion (the movement of stars through the galaxy) will make today’s constellations unrecognizable.
  • 500,000 years from now – By this time Earth will have likely been impacted by a meteorite of roughly 1 km in diameter.
  • 1 Million years from now – Highest estimated time until the red supergiant star Betelgeuse explodes in a supernova. The explosion is expected to be easily visible in daylight.
  • 10 Million years from now – The widening East African Rift valley is flooded by the Red Sea, causing a new ocean basin to divide the continent of Africa.
  • 230 Million years from now – The solar system reaches Lyapunov time and the orbits of the planets become impossible to predict.
  • 240 Million years from now – From its present position, the Solar System will have completed one full orbit of the Galactic center.
  • 250 Million years from now – All the continents on Earth fuse into a possible new supercontinent.
  • 600 Million years from now – Tidal acceleration moves the Moon far enough from Earth that total solar eclipses are no longer possible. Carbon dioxide levels in its atmosphere decrease to the point at which C3 photosynthesis is no longer possible. 99% of all plants will die.
  • 1 Billion years from now – The Sun’s luminosity increases by 10%, causing Earth’s surface temperatures to reach an average of 47°C and the oceans to boil away.
  • 5.4 Billion years from now – The Sun becomes a red giant. Mercury, Venus and possibly Earth are destroyed. During these times, it is possible that Saturn’s moon Titan could achieve surface temperatures necessary to support life.
  • 7 Billion years from now – The Milky Way and Andromeda galaxy collide.
  • 14.4 Billion years from now – Sun becomes a black dwarf as its luminosity falls below three trillionths its current level making it invisible to human eyes.
  • 20 Billion years from now – The end of the Universe in the Big Rip scenario.
  • 50 Billion years from now – Assuming both survive the Sun’s expansion, by this time the Earth and the Moon become tidelocked, with each showing only one face to the other.
  • 100 Billion years from now – The Universe’s expansion causes all evidence of the Big Bang to disappear beyond the practical observational limit, rendering cosmology impossible.
  • 1 Trillion years from now – Low estimate for the time star formation ends in galaxies as they are depleted of the gas clouds needed to create stars. Once star formation ends and the least massive red dwarfs exhaust their fuel, the only stellar-mass objects remaining are stellar remnants (white dwarfs, brown dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes).
  • 2 Trillion years from now – All galaxies outside the Local Supercluster are no longer detectable in any way, assuming that dark energy continues to make the Universe expand at an accelerating rate.
  • 1015 (1 Quadrillion) years from now – Estimated time until stellar close encounters detach all planets in the Solar System from their orbits. The Solar System will no longer exist.
  • 3×1043 years from now – If protons decay, this is the estimated time for all nucleons in the observable Universe to decay. The Black Hole Era, in which black holes are the only remaining celestial objects begins.
  • 1065 years from now – If protons don’t decay this is the estimated time for rigid objects like rocks to rearrange their atoms and molecules via quantum tunneling. On this timescale all matter is liquid.

  • 101050 years from now – Estimated time for a Boltzmann brain to appear in the vacuum via a spontaneous entropy decrease.

  • 101056 years from now – Estimated time for random quantum fluctuations to generate a new Big Bang.

  • 101076 years from now – All matter collapses into black holes, again.


Current theories suggest that the Universe is open, and thus will not collapse in on itself after a finite time. However, the infinite future potentially allows for the occurrence of a number of massively improbable events, such as the formation of a Boltzmann brain. A more complete list from which the ones included here were taken can be found on Wikipedia.

Colorful/Super Moon


Photo credit: Noel Carboni

The image above, click it for a wallpaper sized version, is a composite of 15 exposures digitally stitched together. According to photographer Noel Carboni:

Looking through the viewfinder I swept across the surface in a zig-zag fashion, trying for about 1/3 overlap between frames. I triggered the shutter with my TC80-N3 remote timer/controller. I did the stitching by hand in Photoshop.

Since it was taken at the camera’s most noise-free setting (ISO 100), the data is very accurate, and thus I was able to strongly increase the saturation via Photoshop’s Image – Adjust – Hue/Saturation function.

The fascinating color differences along the lunar surface are real, though highly exaggerated, corresponding to regions with different chemical compositions. And while these color differences are not visible to the eye even with a telescope, moon watchers can still see a dramatic lunar presentation tonight thanks to a fluke of orbital mechanics that brings the moon closer to Earth than that it has been in more than 18 years. At its peak, the supermoon of March 2011 may appear 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than lesser full moons. However, to the casual observer, it will probably be hard to tell the difference.