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Thursday, October 09, 2014

Bloody Moon Eclipse Over Tokyo

Yesterday's eclipse of the moon was, fortunately, visible from Japan and occurred in the evening.

By the time I finished work at about 7 p.m., there was just a bright white sliver, about 1/16 of the moon, at the top of the lunar disk, and as I cycled home over the next half hour it got gradually smaller and smaller until, at about 7:45 p.m., the moon was almost entirely obscured - although still able to be identified by the reddish-brown tinge it had taken on. The color of the eclipse this time earned it the moniker of a "blood moon" - a suitably spooky one for an event so steeped in mystery and superstition.

Eclipse of the moon over Marunouchi, Tokyo.
Lunar eclipse over Marunouchi, Tokyo. (Yes, that dot in the sky!)
Almost as interesting as the eclipse itself was the reaction it elicited, of contained excitement and intense curiosity among the scores of people at almost every street corner or other vantage point.

Cycling down past the Imperial Palace and through the Marunouchi district, I saw dozens and dozens of mobile phones somewhat futilely pointed at the night sky to record the event (I say futilely, because look at the meager result of mine above, taken on my phone!)

Once home I got out my camera and took a shot of the almost fully eclipsed moon from the balcony looking east. In this somewhat better shot, you can make out the red, fully eclipsed moon quite high in the sky. Below it, in the middle of the photo is the broad "coolly hat" silhouette of the Kokugikan (the headquarters of sumo in Japan) and, right behind it, the Edo Tokyo Museum - both in the Ryogoku district of Tokyo.

Red, fully eclipsed moon over the Kokugikan and Edo Tokyo Museum, Tokyo.
Red, fully eclipsed moon in the sky over the Kokugikan and Edo Tokyo Museum, Tokyo.

A lunar eclipse is called a gesshoku 月食 in Japanese, the first kanji being for "moon" and the second for "eat": a colorful rendition of a phenomenon where, indeed, the moon does appear to be being consumed.

Apparently this eclipse is one of only eight tetrads that will happen in the twenty-first century, a tetrad being a set of four eclipses. The first in this current tetrad took place in April, with the next two due to happen on April 4th and September 28th, 2015.

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