Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Eclipse


It must have started already. With a smile, he finished the verification of the two spacesuits, both his and the one for the person who accompanied him, almost as tall as himself, and pressed the controls to open the airlock. The incredibly long shadows that crossed the lunar landscape appeared in front of them, a familiar sight for the last several years.

Let's go, son —He told his companion beckoning to him while he made his way towards the slope of Shackleton's rim—. We'll see it better from here.

Both of them travelled a dozen of graceful steps uphill and the father made a gesture in the direction opposite to the one the Sun would have at that moment.

Look at the Earth, and tell me what you see.

The son turned to look, but it seemed to take him a bit to realize:

Whoaa! There's a dark spot!
Yes, you see it? —He could almost see the amazed expression of the kid through his helmet visor.
What is that, dad? —The son said, excited. His father waited a second to reply while he kept smiling.
Our shadow —He said still looking at the planet, letting his son grasp the magnitude of what was happening.
Really? —He stopped to think for a moment, and turned to his father with the mouth open— From the entire Moon?
Yes —He looked at him, happy that he was learning so many things—. This time it's us who stand between them and the Sun.

The boy remembered what his father showed him from that same location two weeks before, when the Sun was just in the place of the sky the Earth always occupied, and the planet hid it completely. For a few moments the darkness in the surface was complete– until a totally unexpected ring of a bright red colour surrounded the Earth, and there in the Moon everything remained lit in a tenuous crimson shade for many long minutes.

I liked it better the other time. It doesn't seem like anything there turned red… —he said, squinting at the planet while he continued watching how the blurry lunar shadow was travelling across it.

His father agreed.
It's always more spectacular when the Sun is the hidden body, and the Moon doesn't have an atmosphere to bend the red light towards there, like I explained to you —he admitted—. But an eclipse like today's, seen from there… —He paused— From Earth, the Moon and the Sun have almost exactly the same size in the sky, so watching them coincide is something incredible… Furthermore, the sky, the colour of which is normally a very light blue, gets darker by the minute… and one can see the shadow approaching from the distance while a cold wind starts stroking your skin… —He turned to his son and touched his shoulder— Renting a mobility-help exoskeleton is still expensive, but when we raise the money and if you get stronger, one day I'll take you to see one. —He turned again towards Earth— As you see, our shadow never covers Earth completely, so the totality is only seen from certain zones each time and it only lasts a few minutes, but… You know? It's a very special moment there, because it's the only time in which you can see the stars in the sky with the Sun above the horizon. Moreover… since the sizes coincide… when the Sun is almost covered you can see a kind of diamonds' ring, because its light still arrives between the mountains of the Moon, until totality occurs… And when this happens, the solar corona is seen with an impressive brightness, with incredible shapes… it almost seems like if a hole opened in the sky in the place where the Sun was…

A flood of distant memories and emotions came to his mind as he described it, looking at his home planet with moist eyes.

It's something, just… wonderful…