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August 21, 2017 1:21 PM

Joe McFarland

When Clouds Ruin a Lunar Eclipse, There’s a Silver Lining


Disappointed you didn’t see much of the total lunar eclipse September 27, 2015? Cloudy skies obscure the view?

Missed seeing that slightly larger super moon as the shadow of the Earth passed by?

For weeks the media did its best to whip us into anticipatory frenzy. Reporters invoked headline superlatives. History was cited. We would not see another total lunar eclipse during a super moon for many years. Somehow, the media’s hyperbolic frenzy implied, we were supposed to care about the moon being covered by the shadow of the Earth, as if we’ve never seen such a thing.

When heavy clouds ruined the view for many the night of September 27, 2015, disappointment was to be expected. Perhaps you were among the crowds who looked up at the black night sky and sensed nothing but clouds.
Cheer up. Total lunar eclipses are vastly overrated compared with a total solar eclipse. The fact is, we see the shadow of the Earth cover the moon nearly every day every month. Whenever we glance at the moon, it’s usually covered by a portion of the Earth’s shadow. People everywhere routinely go to bed every night and never give the eclipsed moon another thought.

But an eclipsed sun is a totally different and absolutely unforgettable life dream.
In two years, on August 21, 2017, when the total solar eclipse of the sun passes directly over Makanda, Illinois, and if the skies are clear and you are a witness, you will understand why people describe seeing a total solar eclipse as the greatest natural spectacle the world will ever see.

Nothing against the moon. It’s a fine moon and absolutely necessary for a total solar eclipse to occur.
But the difference between a total lunar and total solar eclipse really is, well, like night and day.