December 16, 2008 #066 - First Lunar Eclipse

As I was watching the full moon rise a couple of days ago, old memories began to float to the top and burst open like bubbles in a brook. It is always amazing to me what our minds retain of our early lives, hidden below the surface, waiting for the proper eddy to bring them up. For some reason that seems to occur more and more often these days. Dare I say old age.

Anyway, I remembered that a childhood friend "Bob" and I began a project in art class during early grade school that consumed many days of work. We decided to draw and color a 36" map of the moon. The teacher supplied us with a large white poster board to produce our masterpiece on. Remember, this is many years before the space age. We worked diligently drawing and coloring in craters, rills, seas, and mountains. What inspired this project is not clear anymore, maybe a lunar map in the back of an atlas of the earth or a magazine article photo in possibly Look, Life, or the Saturday Evening Post. We completed it over the coarse of many art class periods and it was quite impressive for a couple of young budding space science students. After completion it was hung in the class room by our teacher for the rest of the year. When summer vacation came we had a problem. How to divide one artwork by two boys. Being best friends we compromised and each kept it a month. Over the years it fell into disuse as boyhood things do, and one of our mothers probably decided to clean our rooms and the moon was lost.

This memory lead to another. A year or so later Bob and I decided to watch our first lunar eclipse. My parents had just purchased an old farm house, their dream home. No more rentals with Dad fixing the landlords properties for rent credit. It was a great place out in the country for astronomy. We rode the school bus home Friday evening and set up my Edmund 3" reflector for our observations late in the evening Saturday night. It was clear and cold with about an inch of snow. There was an old fuel platform out behind the smokehouse. This had once held a metal tank secured for gravity flow of fuel to the farm equipment. We decided that was our observatory. I can not explain why it was any better than on the ground!

Two boys went to bed that night but didn't sleep much. In anticipation we were up well in advance of the start of the event, bundled in heavy clothes. As the eclipse progressed we eagerly watched, one at the eyepiece and one eyeballing the moon and then switching places. Every once in awhile we would go inside to warm up. We survived the night on mutual excitement and eyes full of wonder at the moons changing aspect and seeing the earths shadow move through space. We were two tired boys when Bob's parents came to get him at the end of the weekend, but we had seen our eclipse!

NOVEMBER 18, 1956

Clear Sky - Rich

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