moon, a couple of nights ago

The Dark of the Moon

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Friday 21st January 2000

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lunar eclipse, earth's shadow approacheslunar eclipse; almost totallunar eclipse; totality

A 600 MILE round trip to view the total eclipse of the sun at a summer picnic with friends . . . a bottle of Bordeaux, some crusty bread and some creamy Saint Nectaire cheese; no problem. Getting up at 3.30 a.m. in January to walk the few yards to the studio to gaze through the skylight at the total eclipse of the moon; now that's more tricky.

fantail pigeons I get up three times between about 3.15 and 4.10 to watch the progress of the shadow of the earth across the full moon. Unfortunately the gaps between the clouds close up just after it reaches totality. Even though the brilliance of the full moon is masked the moon is still plain to see and, once my eyes are accustomed to the change, it seems quite a bright object. It doesn't have the reddish shade that I was expecting. Perhaps if I had been able to view it for a bit longer the colour would have increased.

sparrowhawk A Sparrowhawk makes an afternoon sortie over the meadow past the ends of the gardens. The four Fantail pigeons fly up from their barrel nestbox and circle around.

cock pheasanthouse sparrow The afternoon sun brings out the iridescent chestnut red on the breast of a cock Pheasant, as it struts sedately across the meadow. I can't claim that the House Sparrow in the hedge looks iridescent, but at least when it is side-lit by the sun it doesn't look as dull as it does on murky winter's days.

vapour trail There seems to be plenty of east to west air traffic this afternoon. The vapour trails dissipate to give the effect of crimped ribbons arcing across the sky. The shape reminds me of long strips of Sugar Kelp, Laminaria saccharina, lying washed up on a sandy beach.

high cirrus cloud A higher cloud, either cirrus or an even more distorted section of vapour trail, reminds me of the ribbed armour of a fossil trilobite.

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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