My Lunar Eclipse Adventure

Just a few months after the total solar eclipse last August, we were treated to a total lunar eclipse on January 31st.

The moon does not generate its own light as the sun does.  Instead, the moon reflects sunlight back to us like a giant mirror.  A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth passes directly between the sun and the moon, blocking all reflected sunlight.  The full moon suddenly turns into a dark orb.

This event would be a rare “Super Blue Blood Moon.” (NASA)

  • A “super moon” because the moon is closer to Earth in its orbit, making it 14 percent brighter than usual.
  • A “blue moon” because it is the second full moon in the same month. (NOTE: The moon does not actually look blue – that’s just an expression.)
  • A “blood moon” because when the moon is in the Earth’s shadow, it turns red. (NOTE: The moon actually does look red.)

A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes completely into the Earth’s umbra (shadow). [Image from wikimedia commons]


The eclipse would only be viewable in certain parts of the world.  The western U.S. would see it before moonset in the early morning.  The Middle East, Asia and Oceania would see it after moonrise in the evening.

Agilent’s Santa Clara headquarters is surrounded by city lights.  So we drove out of Silicon Valley into the mountains, where we had a terrific view of the night sky.

We were up bright and early on the morning of the 31st, as totality began at 4:51 a.m. Pacific Time.  Sure enough, the full moon waned into a crescent, then suddenly turned bright red.  (There is no danger of blindness during a lunar eclipse, so we were able to look at it continuously.)  Totality lasted for more than an hour until 6:07 a.m.  And just as the moon finally set in the west, we were treated to a gorgeous sunrise in the east.

We marveled at our unique opportunity to witness total solar and lunar eclipses less than a year apart.  According to, the next “Blue Blood Moon” will not happen for another decade, on December 31, 2028.

Let’s hear it for science!

Some more “moon shots” I took as the moon exited the Earth’s umbra

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