Even though it will be more than 220,000 miles away, the stunning spectacle of the Lunar Eclipse will soon capture the gaze of many millions of people. What do you have planned for this magical time?
Though we’ve had rain here, clear skies are forecasted for Thursday night, which will be dominated by the eclipse. Are you ready? Can you share this with a child? Like so much of our Universe, this is another opportunity celebrate our joy of life – with help from our world. Are there too many clouds where you are? Use this live video!
When, exactly, will it be? Here are the times for each of the contact points (what are those? Look here).
|Event||UTC Time||Time in Detroit, EST||Contact Point|
|Penumbral Eclipse begins||Nov 19 at 06:02:09||Nov 19 at 1:02 am||P1|
|Partial Eclipse begins||Nov 19 at 07:18:42||Nov 19 at 2:18 am||U1|
|Maximum Eclipse||Nov 19 at 09:02:55||Nov 19 at 4:02 am||M|
|Partial Eclipse ends||Nov 19 at 10:47:04||Nov 19 at 5:47 am||U4|
|Penumbral Eclipse ends||Nov 19 at 12:03:40||Nov 19 at 7:03 am||P4|
Also, remember that eclipses are married pairs – if there is a Lunar Eclipse (a Blood Moon), then there is a Solar Eclipse which is two weeks away from it (either before or after), and vice versa. If that’s true, then when is the Solar Eclipse? December 4th. It will be a Total Eclipse, but will only be visible from Antarctica. So while it’s a treat for the penguins, very few people will see totality this time. Nonetheless, we are all able to perform a ritual at that time, knowing that the eclipse is happening. Unlike nearly all solar eclipses, this will be a “Reversed Eclipse”, which will travel from East to West instead of the normal direction from West to East. As before, you can use this live video to watch it, in any case.
“Blood” refers to the red color of the Moon during the umbral phase of a lunar eclipse. I find the cause of this red color to be amazing! Imagine that you were at the North Pole, watching the Sun just peek over the horizon. You would, of course, see the sun as an orange disc. Right near the horizon, this would deepen to a reddish color, and father away from the horizon, it would be yellowish. Have you ever wondered why that is the case? It turns out that many of the most common types of light scattering (including those from dust as well as air) scatter the shorter wavelength colors (the bluer colors) to the sides, and allow the longer wavelength (redder) colors to continue in a straight line. This means that when the Sun appears at the horizon, the Sun’s light is going through a long path of atmosphere, and hence being scattered more, so the overall brightness goes down, and with the blue colors scattered to the sides, the remaining colors are redder. This is also why we humans (incorrectly) often draw the Sun as yellow in drawings. The Sun’s light is white (otherwise white objects would look yellow in daylight), but we associate yellow with Sunlight because when the Sun is dim enough to look at, it usually is lower in the sky, and hence, yellow. In reality, because the Sun’s light is pure white, and no more yellow than it is, say, green, a yellow Sun high in the sky in child’s drawing makes as much literal sense as a green Sun does!
So, back to the North Pole. You can see now that the light from Sun which just misses your face to the right or the left would continue off into space, behind you. In fact, the light which “just misses” the Earth – which goes through the most atmosphere possible – will be bent (refracted) “down” from your position. When a lunar eclipse occurs, the the Earth fully blocks all straight paths from the Sun to the Moon – so the *only* light that can reach the Moon (and illuminate it, as the Moon makes no light on it’s own), is this light which is refracted into the Earth’s shadow. The surprising realization is that when one sees the blood moon, one is seeing only light from all of the sunsets and sunrises happening around the Earth at the very moment! (see the top image) Wow! This incredible realization has made me wonder – why we haven’t put a remote camera on the Moon, which could continually broadcast the image of the view of the Earth from the Moon? That image could be on a constantly updated webpage – and during a total lunar eclipse, the Earth would appear as a blazing ring of fire! This would be dirt cheap – especially compared to things like the massive 2018 giveaway to the 1%, or the Iraq war. Reminders, yet again, that we “don’t yet live in a scientific age”, as Dr. Feynman pointed out many decades ago.
This refers to the Native American practice of naming the full moons – note that due to geometry, a lunar eclipse can only happen at a full moon. This is a great tradition as it helps us keep the year in perspective and be aware of the turning year as the Wheel of the Year turns. In some tribal traditions, the eleventh full moon after the Winter Solstice (Yule) is the “freezing over” moon (because this is when ponds and lakes freeze over). Other tribes and traditions have other names, but this is the one which is associated with the tribes of this area (Michigan).
Just like the 2017 Solar Eclipse, this eclipse is well aligned for the Americas. Take a look at the map yourself! If you are in any of the Americas and it’s clear, you can see the whole eclipse.
One special feature of Lunar Eclipses, is that because these are on the Moon, everyone can see them at exactly the same time. This is a little hard to explain. By contrast, solar eclipses are visible in different places (say, Nebraska vs. Illinois) at different times. But because everyone sees the same Moon, everyone sees the lunar eclipse simultaneously! This can be an important part of everyone’s rituals – to know that as you are conducting your ritual, many millions of people are watching this same moon – and many are conducting their rituals with you.
Links in Time
While Total Lunar Eeclipses are more common than Total Solar Eclipses (especially when one remembers that solar eclipses are regional, as mentioned above), they are still uncommon. Think about what life will be like in May next year when the next Total Lunar Eclipse happens – it’s not long, but some things will have changed (and after next year, the next Total Lunar Eclipse isn’t until 2025). Who, in your life now, might not still be alive? What new lives may have entered your life? What else might be different? This eclipse, like all eclipses, is a moment we and look at time on a longer scale. Do you want to incorporate this into your ritual?
An eclipse is a powerful time that forever strengthens one’s bond to the rest of our Universe, and thus a sacred time for us Naturalistic Pagans – and a good time for a ritual. Rituals are often more powerful if we feel connected to them. To gain that connection, it helps to be involved in the writing and planning of the ritual – whether that’s from scratch or just making minor tweaks. So here are some ideas for rituals – and more can be found with some looking online. For instance, this site has several good rituals, and this closing:
With this eclipse, I am made new again.I am untarnished, whole, and true.
There is nothing weighing me down,
I am free to fly and break through.
One nice thing about a lunar eclipse is that nothing happens horribly fast. There is plenty of room to go slowly. Holding the first part of the ritual in the long partial phase at the beginning of the eclipse (between first and second contacts),* and then holding the ending of the ritual in the long partial phase at the end of the eclipse (between third and fourth contacts)* encloses the maximum eclipse within your ritual, while also leaving you fully focused on the eclipse experience during the whatever the maximum of the eclipse will be for your location.
Set up your altar, with a red or black cloth, quarter cauldrons (typical cauldron contents include incense or a feather for East, a candle for South, a seashell or water for West, and a rock or earth for North, many of these on a bed of sand) , and items to be charged by the eclipse reflection of the sunsets & sunrises. You may want to mark the wider ritual circle with a stone at each quarter (and perhaps each cross-quarter).
Like other eclipses, anything under the light of the eclipse can be considered to be charged with the power of the eclipse. In this case, all objects will be charged by the reflected light of all the sunsets and sunrises around the world! Wow!!
As I write this, That reminds me that a song or chant would be a nice addition to this ritual, too. Whether you celebrate in the path of totality, far from it, or at some other time, may your celebrations be blessed.
The Author: Jon Cleland Host
Starstuff, Contemplating: We are assemblages of ancient atoms forged in stars – atoms organized by history to the point of consciousness, now able to contemplate this sacred Universe of which we are a tiny, but wondrous, part.
Dr. Jon Cleland Host is a scientist who earned his PhD in materials science at Northwestern University & has conducted research at Hemlock Semiconductor and Dow Corning since 1997. He holds eight patents and has authored over three dozen internal scientific papers and eleven papers for peer-reviewed scientific journals, including the journal Nature. He has taught classes on biology, math, chemistry, physics and general science at Delta College and Saginaw Valley State University. Jon grew up near Pontiac, and has been building a reality-based spirituality for over 30 years, first as a Catholic and now as a Unitarian Universalist, including collaborating with Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow to spread the awe and wonder of the Great Story of our Universe (see www.thegreatstory.org, and the blog at evolutionarytimes.org). Jon and his wife have four sons, whom they embrace within a Universe-centered, Pagan, family spirituality. He currently moderates the yahoo group Naturalistic Paganism.