Thursday, February 21, 2008


The lunar eclipse came to life in our kitchen Wednesday night, courtesy of a keychain flashlight and two cups.


The moon was eclipsed from 8:43 to 12:09 p.m. in our area, according to a notice we got a few months ago. During that time, as the moon moved progressively further into the earth’s shadow, its light dimmed and reddened. All in all, it’s quite a sight ― or at least it would be, if it weren’t so dang cloudy and bitterly cold outside.


Instead, we made our own lunar eclipse inside. We turned off the lights in the kitchen, plunging the room into darkness, and I shined the flashlight onto a cup that I explained represented the earth. It cast a long shadow across the table, where there was a second cup, which stood in for the moon.


I put the moon cup between the earth and the sun, and Evangeline immediately understood what was going on. “That’s a solar eclipse,” she said. And then I moved the moon around the earth so that it fell into the earth’s shadow, and explained that this is what happens during a lunar eclipse.


Evangeline wanted to know how that compared to the new moon, when the moon isn’t visible at all in the sky, so we moved the moon around, and showed how it would be visible from some parts of the earth, but not from others, but with a lunar eclipse, how it had fallen into the earth’s shadow.


Natasha by this time had found some pictures of lunar eclipses on Google Images, and the girls quickly fell to, seeing how a lunar eclipse would look when it didn’t involve plastic ups and a flashlight. Rachel even got why the moon turns red during an eclipse, because of a previous experiment we did where we refracted sunlight into its different colors.


Lunar eclipses occur up to three times a year; the next one we’re supposed to see from North America isn’t until Dec. 21, 2010. Hopefully it won’t be cold or cloudy.

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