The lunar eclipse may have made headlines for coinciding with the winter solstice, but it wasn't enough to get Astronomical Society of Greenwich President Anne Burns out of the house early Tuesday.
"I have a cold, and though we hoped we'd be able to open the [Bowman] Observatory, no one was available," said Burns. "Personally, I stayed home and watched from my window."
The occurrence didn't have much cosmic significance, said Burns, adding that lunar eclipses occur annually or biannually. "They're just not that rare."
What made this lunar eclipse significant was its timing with the winter solstice, an event that has not taken place since 1633. The next winter solstice total lunar eclipse is not expected until 2094.
"The winter solstice is actually a bad time for an eclipse," said Burns. "People are busy with the holidays, it's cold and it happened very late."
Because of these factors and a conflict with its volunteer caretaker Rick Bria, the Bowman Observatory could not be opened. The observatory is a teaching facility owned by Greenwich Public Schools. But residents didn't need the observatory to gaze upon the eclipse: It could easily be seen with the naked eye from any spot in Greenwich.
In a lunar eclipse, which occurred from 2:41 to 3:53 a.m. Tuesday, the moon appears to slip into shadow as the sun, Earth and moon began to align in a straight row. As the moon passes behind the Earth, the sun's rays are blocked, giving the moon an orange and reddish hue. The moon appears completely covered and then gradually re-emerges from darkness.
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