A Starry Night and a Smartphone Screen: When We Won’t Just Put Down the Phone, and Look

Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night".
Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”.

Last night, a beautiful blood-red lunar eclipse happened to coincide with the moment in the lunar orbit when the moon is at its closest position relative to the Earth. Such a conflation of astronomic events is relatively rare — the last so-called “supermoon lunar eclipse” occurred in 1982, and the next one is not scheduled to occur again until 2033. Neither is likely to again fall on the eve of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

I had spent most of yesterday at work. I was in on a Sunday afternoon to process some samples for a collaborator, and — consistent with the laws of benchwork — the entire experiment took twice as long as originally expected. After having endured hours of shivering in a super-cooled room (because, lasers!) fighting an uncooperative piece of expensive equipment, I returned home late, grouchy, and exhausted.

Still, at around 10:30pm, I dragged myself and Snoopy off the couch. I opened the front door and looked up. There, against a backdrop of twinkling stars and glowing in a near-cloudless night sky, was a dark red moon illuminated by just a sliver of sunlight reflecting from an incomplete eclipse.

I smiled and let all of the days frustrations and anxieties melt away.

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