February 21, 2008

Refracted sunrises and sunsets

I went out into the cold dark night to see the lunar eclipse. It was very beautiful -- the full moon in shadow, dark but somehow glowing with a kind of dark red-gold color. On NPR's All Things Considered, Kelly Beatty, executive editor of Sky & Telescope magazine, had said that it would be "a pale ruddy orb, like a glowing ember in the sky." He said that the glow is caused by "sunlight leaking through the earth, kind of like all the sunrises and sunsets simultaneously allowing a little of their light to be refracted onto the moon’s surface." It was quite amazing to see. And it is also amazing to think of all the sunrises and sunsets of the whole earth being mirrored in the moon, a whole day's worth of earth's light reflected back to us. When I was a little girl, Mama used to get me up to watch eclipses and unusual alignments of planets and stars. I remember sitting on the front porch on a dark cold morning, wrapped in a big blanket, watching Venus shining huge and low in the sky. Last night, outside watching the moon, I had the same feelings of awe and wonder as I did then (as the psalmist did, too) when I considered the heavens, the work of God's fingers, the moon and the stars that God has ordained.

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