I decided to go for it, and set my alarm for 2:30 AM (ick) to see the eclipse. The moon was nearing totality at that point, with a too-shallow crescent near the bottom and the rest in slightly reddish shadow. My original plan was to lie down on the balcony and watch, but it turned out there was a tree in the way, but if I went over to the other end, by the patio table, I was able to see it.

I watched as the crescent shrank to a sliver, and finally the moon was shaded dark red to dull red to light red to a much dimmer white than usual. The deeper reds slowly spread across its face, edging out the brighter colors near the edge of the Earth’s shadow.

I brought my cheesy little digital camera, and took some photos. It promptly started warning me the battery was low, and I had to dig around in the dark to find the spare. I think this is the best of the pictures, as far as showing the eclipsed moon itself goes:

Moon in eclipse
Eclipsed Moon, 3:13 AM

Earlier in the evening I was testing different shutter settings. I thought this photo from the floor of the balcony turned out interesting:

Balcony lit by full moon

Yes, that’s lit by moonlight (in a long exposure).

OK, I’m going out to take one last look at the moon (I think I heard the downstairs neighbors’ door open a few minutes ago, so at least I’m not the only one up for this) and then go back to bed. I’ll look through my photos again tomorrow and post anything else that looks good.

Update: Here’s a shot from deeper in totality, just after the mid-point of the eclipse:

Lunar Eclipse - orange moon
Eclipsed Moon, 3:40 AM

PleiadesAnd here’s the Pleiades, which I spotted when I turned around and looked up. A far cry from this, but hey, I figured I was doing pretty well to be getting photos of stars with this type of camera in the first place.

I think the last time I saw the Pleiades, Hyades, Taurus and Orion in August, I was something like 14 and on a trip with my scout troop to do whitewater rafting. We slept out under the stars and I just happened to wake up at 3 in the morning.

OK, sleep is calling to me. Signing off…

Update 2: After I went to bed, I realized that I shouldn’t have dismissed my idea of scrounging up some film and pulling my manual SLR camera out of the closet. Between the better optics, more shutter control, and an actual telephoto lens, I probably would have gotten considerably better pictures. I just don’t think we have any rolls of film lying around that haven’t expired, and I didn’t want to run out at 11:00 to get some. Ah, well. Something to think about for next time.

Also, I realized that these blurry pictures look kind of like a Moon-sized version of Mars. Hmm, that might confuse some people. 😉

Update 3: You have to check out Thursday’s APOD: an incredible telescopic image of the moon taken during totality.

Some interesting comments by Warren Ellis in today’s Bad Signal on film budgets, and Superman Returns in particular.

$250 million puts you in spacelaunch-budget territory. For $250 million WB could’ve given Bryan Singer his own communications satellite and spent the change on a George Clooney movie.

This is the absurdity of modern Hollywood; that taking more than the GNP of Luxembourg in a single weekend is not actually enough to put a movie in the black.

It’s the “spacelaunch” comment that I find most interesting, as I made the same comparison a few years ago, from the other side of the fence: Assuming that the Spirit and Opportunity missions to Mars are typical, price-wise, it doesn’t make sense to complain that we’re “wasting” money on space exploration when a mission costs as much as two summer blockbusters. Manned missions are, of course, more expensive, but robotic missions? If we, as a society, toss away $250 million several times a year on mindless action flicks, what’s so terrible about spending a similar amount to learn something about our universe?

Yes, I know the difference is public vs. private funding. Movies are financed by studios and private investors, and space exploration is usually financed by governments, and therefore by taxes. But comparing the dollar amounts puts things in a different perspective—whether you’re astonished by the literally astronomical movie budgets, or realizing that exploring outer space is more down to Earth than it seems at first glance.

The Grand Comics Database* is a project to index the titles, dates, credits, covers, and character appearances in every comic book ever published. A sidebar on the home page shows the latest cover scan contributed. A couple of days ago, that cover scan was this:

Cover of Commies From Mars: The Red Planet

The image links to the GCD entry, which is still a stub right now, but apaprently it was printed in 1973 by Kitchen Sink Press. Here’s the kid’s thought balloon:

I’ll play along with these filthy commie invaders from Mars until I can get to my shotgun! I’m little, but I’m all American!

On a related note, I’ve just made reservations to see Scott Shaw!’s show, Oddball Comics, running in LA through February (hat tip: News From ME).

*I’ve found it very useful for finding info for my Flash site. Unfortunately it isn’t big on supporting characters, so I’m still tracking down issues myself to fill in the details. On the other hand, this way I can acutually read the stories.

Here are several humor articles that have been posted to the SpamAssassin discussion list over the past week:

The TechWeb Spin: All spam is true! (Fredric Paul, Internet Week, June 29, 2004): Yes, you read it here: it’s all true! The author explains about all the money he’s gotten from deposed Nigerian dictators, the software discounts, the combined advantages of certain pharmaceuticals and dating services, and more!

It’s true, I read it on the Net! (author unknown): I remember seeing this way back when, under the title “The Ultimate Chain Letter.” It’s kind of like the parody of the Good Times Virus (remember that one?) in that it combines everything. All the urban legends about stolen kidneys, rats at KFC, needles in pay phones, and satanic business leaders. All the email hoaxes about Bill Gates giving you money and dying kids asking for email. All the typical chain letter threats about not breaking the chain.

Spam is out of this world (Adam Turner, Syndey Morning Herald, April 1, 2004): An April Fools’ piece about the Mars Spirit rover being crippled by spam traffic: “The rover’s limited onboard artificial intelligence was foolish enough to apply for an shonky online marketing diploma. Soon after offers of cheap WD40 and antenna enlargements began clogging the link between Mars and NASA’s Deep Space Network.” It goes on to explain that Beagle was taken down by a Martian Nigerian scam.

Welcome to Spam University: a parody of a school site with ridiculously low entry requirements (At least four years of elementary school, No more than three felony convictions), course descriptions (Harvesting Addresses, Covering Your Tracks, Spamming Ethics – Canceled), alumni testimonials and more!