MARTY RUSSELL: Red moons, red planets both fascinate

MARTY RUSSELL

MARTY RUSSELL

If the lingering cloud cover prevented you from seeing Tuesday morning’s “blood moon,” a total lunar eclipse where the moon turns a copper color due to sunlight filtering through the Earth’s atmosphere before going completely dark, there’s plenty of video of it to be found online. Granted it’s not the same as being there but, quite frankly, if you’ve seen one total lunar eclipse you’ve pretty much seen them all.

And you’ll have three more chances to catch a repeat over the next year, an unusual occurrence known as a tetrad where four “blood moons” happen within a year. The next occurs Oct. 8 and then two more on April 4 and Sept. 28 of next year. The next tetrad won’t come around until 2032.

If you’ve never seen a total lunar eclipse before, it’s worth staying up for. The videos don’t do them justice. However, if you have, there are lots more things even more interesting to see “out there.”

For instance, while most people start their day by booting up their computer and checking their email, Facebook page or catching up on the latest news, I start my day by going to Mars. I know what you’re thinking, “Why don’t you just stay there?” Well, because I have to visit Mars vicariously each morning through the rover Curiosity, which just completed its first year of driving around the Red Planet.

I start each day by clicking on the raw images link on the Mars Science Laboratory’s website, mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/.

Then, as I enjoy that first cup of coffee of the day I get to peruse the images Curiosity has sent back from the previous day, usually hundreds of them in black and white and color and often in 3D. I get to play explorer, checking out the latest views the small SUV-sized rover is seeing as it makes it way toward its ultimate destination, Mt. Sharp. Each morning I think I’ll be the first to catch that first glimpse of a Martian hiding behind a rock or a gas station Curiosity can pull into for some new wheels, the old ones are getting pretty worn. When I don’t – and I haven’t – I’ll Photoshop a picture of Marvin the Martian from Looney Tunes into an image just for fun.

But it’s something new and different every day from Mars. And just the thought that someone here on Earth is driving that thing is incredible given that the terrain it’s in has more hazards than Augusta. I sometime play backseat driver thinking I’ve spotted a shortcut to Mt. Sharp although it’s probably lucky I’m not driving since I’d likely get the thing stuck in some dead end.

So if this week’s lunar eclipse piqued your curiosity in the cosmic neighborhood and, unlike lunar eclipses which have been viewed and photographed for years, add the Curiosity website to your morning checklist. Who knows, you might be the first to spot Marvin.

Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at marty.russell56@gmail.com.