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Lunar Eclipse

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Lunar Eclipse 2105

The astronomy in this short story is real. The rest is science fiction--at least for now.

NASA

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May 28, 2105: The airlock door slid sideways and Jack stepped out onto the moon.

The dusty ground was bright, reflecting light from the sun above. Squinting, Jack scanned the curved horizon. There: a smooth spot in the distance. "Perfect," he thought as he bounded toward it, bunny-hopping Apollo-style.

A view of the Moon captured during the Apollo 15 mission

"OK, Jack," the radio crackled after a while. "You better stop now and get ready. The eclipse starts in a few minutes."

"Dad... I know what I'm doing," he radioed back, his 14-year-old voice gruff. To prove it, he took one more hop--then stopped. Jack didn't want to miss anything.

Grunting, he reached behind his back--not so easy in a pressurized space suit--and tugged at some Velcro straps. A little fiddling and he had it: his great-grandfather's camping chair. Nearly 100 years old, made of green canvas and aluminum tubes, Jack's family treasured the old thing.

Jack pressed the chair into the moondust, maneuvered around and wriggled the bottom of his space suit between the narrow armrests. A button on his glove, pressed, sent an electrical current surging through his visor, which darkened like welding glasses. "I love these advanced materials," he grinned. Staring straight up at the sun, his eyes felt good.

lunar eclipse animation created by Francis ReddyFor the next hour he patiently waited, watching the sun's disk glide behind something big and dark: Earth. From the moon, Earth looked three and a half times wider than the sun. Sometimes Earth was amazingly bright, blue and cloudy-white. Today, though, the planet's night side was facing moonward.

Finally, the sun vanished. This is what he had been waiting for.... Lit from behind, Earth's atmosphere began to glow around the edges, ringing the dark planet with all the colors of a sunset. And from there sprung the Sun's corona: pale white, sticking out like Jack's sister's hair when she rubbed her stockinged feet on the carpet back in the lunar habitat.

Jack cleared his visor to enjoy the view.

The ground around him wasn't bright any more. It was dim and deep red--aglow with sunlight filtered through the edge of Earth's atmosphere. All at once every sunset on Earth was shining down on Jack.

"I bet he would love this," said Jack. He was thinking of his great-grandfather, Don Pettit, the science officer of the first International Space Station. Don had loved to watch sunsets and the red edge of Earth's atmosphere from orbit. When his tour of duty in space was done, he used to sit in this old chair by the campfire and tell his boys all about it, or so Jack's dad claimed.

The radio crackled again: "Jack, are you seeing this?"

"I sure am, dad, thanks." He completely forgot to be gruff.


Editor's note: The astronomy in this story is real. The rest is science fiction--at least for now. One day lunar colonists will stride outdoors to enjoy such eclipses. They happen about twice a year whenever Earth passes directly between the sun and moon. Our planet's shadow darkens the moon, while sunlight filtering through the edge of our atmosphere turns it red. On the moon they will call these events solar eclipses, but from Earth they are lunar eclipses. Visit NASA's Eclipse Home Page for more information.


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