Chasing the Lunar Eclipse Around the North Oregon Coast
By Andre Hagestedt
(Manzanita, Oregon) - Zipping around the north coast in search of that fascinating eclipse was, to say the least, a fuzzy experience. I’m not real clear on what the skies did in Portland (if you’ll excuse the pun), but it seems the big viewing party at OMSI got rained out and was held inside.
On the coast, things were a little up and down. The skies changed constantly throughout the evening, but they also opened up frequently and poured rain with reckless abandon. This meant you sometimes had nice views of the eclipse, but most of the time you didn't. And some of the time, you simply got drenched all of a sudden and without warning. There were even moments when you could see the moon, but some dark, nasty structure up there was letting loose showers onto you anyway.
Around 9:30 p.m., as the first phase of the eclipse was settling in, the moon was still lighting up the nocturnal beach in interesting ways. Like this shot at top, at Cannon Beach’s Tolovana area, where the long exposures needed to photograph under such conditions yielded some stunning, surreal landscapes.
About this time the moon was still poking out fairly frequently and brightly. I pointed my zoom camera upwards and got this esoteric shot seen above. This was a few minutes after 9:30 p.m., and it was interesting you couldn’t see any trace of the eclipse just yet, but that could be the hazy cloud cover.
Doing this on the Oregon coast meant dealing with a series of rain storms, and in this case I kept getting hit with one rain squall after another wherever I stopped. I was attempting to run through the other side of the storm, and indeed this seemed to work – at first. Leaving a squall in Seaside I headed south to mid town in Cannon Beach, where it eventually stopped raining. But as soon as I got out with the camera equipment, another squall started. And this pattern of moving south and getting hit again continued for a bit, until I gave up and headed for home in Manzanita.
About 10:45 or so, the sky cleared again, but only briefly. It was long enough to grab this shot of a distinctly encroaching darker edge to the moon. You can still see one or two craters and other lunar features, however. Awesome.
I’m meandering around downtown Manzanita, and manage to catch a shot of the moon hovering above one of the retail spots, all aglow with Christmas lights.
The one thing the weather forecasters forget to tell you is how quickly things can change here, much more dramatically than inland in say, Portland. When they forecast rain, this often means periods of clouds and heavy rain, followed by periods of calm to even chunks of sun here and there.
In this case, it meant a general storm, but the sky cleared enough to see the moon now and then. However, it never dissipated enough to show stars.
Things were extremely cold this night, by the way, definitely in the 30’s. Not much warmer than frigid Portland, really, which the coast usually is during winter.
Then, just before the disk disappeared, about 11:20 or so, I find this greatly diminished moon. A ways after that, after waiting for squall after squall and constant cloud cover, 11:45 arrives and you can see the moon is covered completely. It’s too dim to be photographed by my equipment, sadly. But it is spectacular.
It’s also got an orange glow to it as well, as promised.
I can easily imagine what the superstitious world of the 1600’s thought the last time this happened, and the resulting creepy tales they told would probably fuel dozens of Hollywood horror flicks for years to come. I wasn’t there, however. I was here – sort of. Well, my view wasn’t so hot, that’s all. But at least I had the chance to witness it.
And now, it's officially the winter solstice - the wee hours of December 21, yet another astronomical landmark. It will be the shortest day of the year today, but luckily I'm on the coast, where daylight lasts about ten minutes longer than inland.
Now that's cool, and it kind of makes up for not seeing the full effects of the eclipse.
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