Clouds part for solstice eclipse in Berkeley

The Earth's shadow creeps across the moon's surface. Photo: Lance Knobel.

For the astronomically inclined, the cloud cover most of yesterday was depressing. Last night’s total lunar eclipse looked like something that would only be seen through other people’s pictures (and, since it was visible throughout the U.S., someone was guaranteed a clear view).

But the clouds began to part midway through the evening and, as the eclipse began around 10:30 p.m., the moon was winning the battle against the clouds. The moon was in and out of the clouds, but when totality began at 11:41 p.m., the cloud cover was winning. Fortunately it cleared shortly after, and to the naked eye the umbral moon was distinctly red. The effect was even more dramatic through binoculars. The reddish tinge was created because of dust in the upper atmosphere from the recent eruption of Mount Merapi in Indonesia.

The next total solar eclipse (a far rarer phenomenon) visible in North America will be on August 21, 2017. The path of totality will pass through northern Oregon — plan your trips now.

Update, 8.45: To see the moon with its orange-red hue, check out Steve Lefkovits’ beautiful photo taken from the Berkeley hills last night.