Last night, my neighbors and I stood in the middle of the street, shielded our eyes from the streetlight, and watched a, casting it in a burnished red-orange. Clouds flitted around it, and we had a shared sense of beauty and awe. Which is why I got a little chippy when I saw famed astrophysicist and science communication celebrity Neil deGrasse Tyson poo-poo the whole thing.
On Sunday evening, Tyson dropped this gem on Twitter: “Lunar eclipses are so un-spectacular that if nobody told you what was happening to the Moon you’d probably not notice at all,” he wrote. “Just sayin’.”
Excuse me? If I looked up on a full moon night and saw an encroaching bite of darkness, I would notice. My normally bright-shining moon looking like it’s been dipped in charcoal ash? I would notice.
Tyson’s mini tweetstorm contained lots of disparaging remarks about the lunar eclipse, calling it “long and boring” and talking about how a lack of air pollution in the atmosphere means the “blood moon” isn’t bloody. Perhaps there was a connection to , but the moon I saw was distinctly red.
Tyson described lunar eclipses as “not rare” because you can see one on average every two to three years. I suppose I have a different definition of rare. It’s not like the lunar eclipse is a Friends rerun. Something that happens every few years is rare in my book.
I wasn’t the only person to get my hackles up over Tyson’s comments. The replies to his “un-spectacular” thread included stories of people who went out to watch the moon and found it magical. Others wondered why he would seem to be so discouraging.
Tyson is someone many people have looked to over the years as a font of information about our universe, someone who gets us excited about the cosmos. His lunar eclipse takedown is the opposite of that. It’s a wet moldy towel thrown over the flames of our lunar joy.
As many wise counselors have suggested, we can’t control other people, only our reactions to them. After a few minutes of feeling bummed — thinking maybe I was overreacting to the wonder of the moon cloaking itself in the Earth’s shadow — I decided I didn’t need to let Tyson rain on my moon parade.
Tyson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
A lunar eclipse for me is a call to slow down, to contemplate the interaction of the sun, moon and Earth, to feel connected to a universe so much bigger than the day-to-day moments of my life. It’s humbling and exhilarating.
Last night, I stood on the street outside my house with my neighbors. We looked up at the moon as it shaded into a dusky red as though channeling the heart of Mars. It was spectacular.