Best. Lunar Eclipse. Ever. (July 2018)

This Friday night and Saturday morning is the best time to see the best lunar eclipse ever!!

Okay, slight exaggeration but this lunar eclipse is definitely the longest for 100 years! And it is visible almost everywhere in the world… except for Northern America. Considering they had the solar eclipse last year, I think they will survive.

What is a Lunar Eclipse?

As covered in a similar post earlier this year, a lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes behind the Earth and into its shadow. The Moon does not have its own light source; that big pizza pie in the sky is reflecting light from the Sun on to the Earth. So when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are all aligned, it means the Moon will pass into the shadow of the Earth. This also means a lunar eclipse only happens during a full moon. Waxing and Waning Moons occur due to the odd-angle the Moon sits relative to the Earth and the Sun.

The great news is you don’t need any special equipment; no funky glasses or special telescopes. Just pull up a seat and gaze at the moon. Bring snacks as well because lunar eclipses can last a while, and this one is the longest. Experts (like NASA and the Sydney Observatory) advise the moon will be eclipsed for one hour and 43 minutes!! During this time, we have the greatest opportunity to witness a “Blood Moon”.

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Wait… What is a Blood Moon?

Some cultures used to refer to a total lunar eclipse as a blood moon. When the direct sunlight is completely blocked, the only other light seen is refracted through Earth’s shadow. This light looks red because of the ‘Rayleigh scattering‘ – that’s the scattering of light by particles.

Light, as we see it, is a spectrum of colours. When it is refracted (or split) through the atmosphere, we can see different colours. This is most noticeable with the blue sky and the different colours in sunsets due to dust particles in the air. For a lunar eclipse, the Sun’s light refracts around the edge of the Earth and hits the Moon. Blue and violet wavelengths scatter more than red and orange wavelengths, so the red is more like to reach the moon. Thus, it looks like the Moon is bleeding.

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When and Where Can I See the Blood Moon?

The absolute best viewing points are from Western Asia, across the Middle East, and East Africa. If you are in Australia, Oceania, Europe, and the rest of Africa, you still have a good chance of a great site. North America and Greenland are out of luck this year.

Australia

Not the best timing for us but an early start shouldn’t kill me. If you are specifically after the Red, then make sure you are comfortable looking up around 4.30am AEST on Saturday morning. The total eclipse should occur between 5.30am and 6.30am, with the Moon setting around 6.55am. The Moon is going to be close to the horizon, so look to the West-South-West.

Asia

Those in Central Asia will probably have the best viewing of all. Look up from around 3.30pm and you might be able to catch the Mars Opposition at the same time. For those in India, you should aim for around 11:50pm local time on Friday night.

Middle East

The Middle East should be able to see the whole event in its entirety. That’s 103 minutes to make yourself comfortable. The eclipse should start around 10:24pm local time.

Europe

The days are pretty long in Europe right now. Follow your early dinner with an evening walk to the best vantage point by 8.45pm. With your warm Summer nights, you can probably stretch out on the grass and soak it all in. I’m a little jealous.

Africa

Eastern Africa will have the best viewing across the continent with other regions maybe missing the start. My contacts tell me the eclipse should be completely visible in Eastern Africa from 3.30pm to 5.15pm local time.

South America

Most of South America will only catch the tail-end of the eclipse, after sunset on Friday 27 July. However, don’t be too disappointed because your next big event is a total solar eclipse on 2 July 2019, with totality running through Chile and Argentina. Still, tonight’s event is a nice way to kick off the evening.
Yes, I will most likely be dragging my tired sorry butt out of bed early in the morning to check it out. Due to my sleep deprivation during the last three weeks, I am giving no guarantees for photos. You’ll just have to wait and see.

 

World Chocolate Day 2018: The Best Chocolate is More Than Just Food

Did you really think I would forget about World Chocolate Day?

It’s the most wonderful day of the year! A day to enjoy, explore, and excite your taste buds with a gift from the gods themselves: chocolate.

However, you cannot truly celebrate World Chocolate Day with ordinary chocolate purchased at the supermarket. No, no, no! Now is the time to break bad habits and educate yourself on the pleasure of chocolate. The good, the bad, and the deserving of your money.

Make yourself a hot chocolate and grab a choc-chip biscuit. It’s time for some chocolate worshipping.

Brief History of Chocolate

Most true chocolate-aficionados know chocolate originates from South America. The word “chocolate” is believed to come from the Aztec word “xocoatl”. However, chocolate back then was nothing like chocolate now. It was a bitter drink brewed from cacao beans and yet still considered the food of the gods.

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All Hail your Aztec Goddess, Evil Genius Mum / Thanks to the Aztec Exhibit at the National Museum, Sydney 2014

Both the Mayans and the Aztecs believed the cacao bean had magical or divine properties. It was used in almost every sacred ritual from birth through to death and beyond. It was the extra special secret ingredient to … well, everything.

Sweetened chocolate, as we know it today, wasn’t really a thing until the Europeans discovered the Americas, and its local cuisine. Apparently, they didn’t really like the taste of it until they figured out how to mix it with honey or cane sugar. And then it really hit off.

Over time, chocolate has moved from being a luxury of the privileged upper class in Europe to the modern chocolate bar we lust after today. Joseph Fry, Cadbury, and Nestle have all had their impact on the development of chocolate and its availability in the mass market–for better or worse. Not all chocolate is created equal, being dependent on the quality of ingredients and the local influence. Trust me when I say, the chocolate used in ration packs for Australian soldiers over the last 30-years leaves MUCH to be desired.

The Art of the Chocolate

However, recently there has been a revolution amongst the chocolate lovers. No longer do we want it to be a common everyday grocery item. No longer do we want it to be a mass production of simple satisfaction for the general folk. We expect more from the ingredients, the production, and the end product we hold in our pretty little hands.

If you are going to celebrate World Chocolate Day, you have to do it right. Start with a local artisan who knows what they are talking about. I went straight to one of my favourites: Coco Chocolate in Kirribilli, Sydney.

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When you walk into their Kirribilli store, you are instantly greeted with a cozy French-provincial feel of ‘welcome’. Everything in the store looks and feels and smells artisan. It is a pure delight just being in the store. I love it. I can’t rave enough about it. And it is EXACTLY the place I wanted to be for World Chocolate Day.

Rhianna knew what I meant. She was the staff of the shop today and happy to chat. When I pointed out how difficult it would be for me to work in a place like this, she exclaimed “Oh, I totally understand!! It is way too easy to simply enjoy everything but when it’s good chocolate… like, really good chocolate… you only need a little bit to enjoy it. I have to show restraint but I love the good stuff so much more than the everyday stuff.”

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And that’s why they are perfect for World Chocolate Day.

World Chocolate Day

World Chocolate Day is not only about the chocolate (though, chocolate does deserve a day of worship). It is also a day to appreciate the cost of providing the world with chocolate. As soon as something is considered popular and valuable, you can guarantee greed will come in and ruin it. Chocolate is no exception. So many companies are too willing to source cheap cacao from vulnerable communities without any care for the impact it has. Companies who are purchasing water reservoirs and then selling it back to the locals at hyped prices because their CEO’s don’t consider water to be an essential right. Companies who are poisoning cacao trees, forcing farmers to sell up for ridiculously low prices and face destitution. Companies who don’t care how young their bean pickers are, so long as they are picking beans. Yeah, I’m looking at you Nestle.

EG Inc does not purchase or accept any Nestle products, due to its unethical behaviour in relation to water and cacao in South America, and palm oil in Borneo.

We are far happier spending our money with more reputable businesses, like Coco Chocolate. In fact, they say it best on their site:

All cacao couverture sourced for tempering at Coco Chocolate is ethical and producers are members of SEDEX, ensuring ethical and responsible practices in labour standards (including employment conditions, profitable income for farmers, supporting community development projects and no child labour), health and safety, the environment and business ethics. As a result all can enjoy Coco Chocolate – creating value for all through the supply chain with transparency, traceability, productivity and quality. – Coco Chocolate website

Why is it so important for me to share this with you? Because you need to know how easy it is to find businesses who are doing the right thing and reward them! THAT is what World Chocolate Day is about. Raising awareness of the conflict with chocolate and bring good businesses into the light. If you are doing the right thing, you deserve a bit of love.

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So today, on World Chocolate Day, I am telling you to share some love with a local business. Find a store doing the right thing; be it work conditions, ethical sources, or employing the vulnerable. Be like the chocolate and give them some of your love. Share your divine purchasing power and show them your support. Let them know you see them.

If you have a local fave, share their details in the comments below. We all want to know the best places to spend our money. And by the way, if you want to try out Coco Chocolate yourself, they have an online store:

http://cocochocolate.com.au/shop/

My favourites are the Organic White Chocolate with Rose & Bergamot and the Organic Dark Chocolate with Rose & Black Pepper. *sigh*

Go! Chocolate! Be merry!

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Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored or paid article. And while the staff at Coco Chocolate do provide delicious tasters, all opinions are my own. 

Ant-Man and The Wasp (Review)

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Let’s be honest: I’m still recovering from Avengers: Infinity War (A: IW). Given I only saw A: IW a couple of weeks ago, it is still fresh in my mind. I, like many others, am desperate for a feel-good movie. Something to lighten the emotional weight now resting on my Marvel heart. I’m not asking for much; just a small, light-hearted story with plenty of strength in its characters. Something to share with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) but still gives me breathing space. Something exactly like Ant-Man and The Wasp.

Where does Ant-Man and The Wasp Fit Into the MCU?

A: IW was massive. It was epic. It was all-encompassing, everything-at-stake type of stuff. It left me feeling like I had been in a marathon. From the beginning, you felt the anticipation as characters slowly started to meet and team-up. My heart was wrenched multiple times before we even reached the final scene. There is no way anything could possibly compare with it until next year.

AM/TW is the complete opposite. And it is so refreshing. The story is far more personal and brought back to a smaller scale. Yet this is exactly what Marvel needs for the last of its films in 2018. It can’t compete with the enormity of A: IW. Instead, AM/TW wins our ‘awwwwwww’ moments.

Ant-Man and The Wasp Stand Alone

You can find the synopsis almost everywhere on the interwebs right now, so let’s keep it simple.

Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) are working on a big beautiful machine (kind of reminds me of the Hadron Collider) to search for Hank’s wife and Hope’s mum, Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer). Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is on the last days of ‘house-arrest’, following his part in Captain America: Civil War (#TeamCap). Scott suddenly has a flash of something Janet-related, calls Hank and Hope, and ends up in a marvelous pile of trouble. Along the way they face off against some other characters who are never really “bad guys” but more conflicts to keep the pace. They keep hanging around the storyline like flies ruining your BBQ. It is a fun jaunt in the private lives of Ant-Man (both incarnations) and The Wasp. In fact, it’s simplicity is the heart of the movie.

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A Movie Filled With Characters

The strength of the movie lies in the characters. Each of the main characters is given a bit more depth from the first; none more so than Hope. I really enjoyed watching her on the screen. In the first movie, she was aloof and unsure of what her role meant, even to her. In AM/TW, we see more motivation and participation. She now looks like she is finding her own place. Hope works with her father; not for her father. When they bring Scott on board, it is made very clear The Wasp is not a side-kick. It is all about partnership and it working together. Yeah, it’s all kinds of sweet.

The whole movie feels like this. In fact, the whole movie feels like one of Luis’ crazy storytelling moments. With more distinguishing features between the characters. There are people meeting people in crazy situations, and you really have to go along for the ride. Even the special effects are smooth–far smoother than Banner’s head sticking out of the Hulkbuster in A:IW (which is still infinitely better than Superman and Moustache League). When partnered with the fight choreography, it is really enjoyable to watch.

My only concern is Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen). She felt a little … incomplete. Her story is connected with Hope’s family but her role in it felt a little convenient. The fight scenes are fantastic and for that, I really appreciate Ghost being in the movie. I just felt a little wanting. There is room for Marvel to bring some more Ghost to the table in future. Maybe not a stand-alone feature but I would love to see her pop-up elsewhere.

All is saved, however, by Cassie (Scott’s daughter, played by Abby Ryder Fortson). Yeah, I’m a sucker for a cute kid with sass. This kid is given the best lines. She completely rolls with the dry humour, takes on the adventure, and drives home the motivation Scott needs to do his damn job. And she has a killer wardrobe; I now want to dance around in pink skirts with camo-leggings and Doc-Marten-style boots. In fact, I think I just might do that. I can’t wait to see her costume in 10-years time.

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Is It A Family Movie?

This movie is all about family. From Hank and Hope searching for Janet to the open-family surrounding Cassie and all the characters in between. [Side-note: It is so beautiful to see a positive supportive extended family as portrayed by Scott, his ex-wife, her husband, and Cassie. Hooray for breaking down one wall of toxic Hollywood tropes]. Again, AM/TW brings everything back to what is most important: Family.

There are a few swear words in it, a couple of very subtle sexual-related jokes and nothing else to prevent me from taking the spawnlings to the movies (except for not being up to date on their Marvel movies because earlier films are not as child-friendly). The release in Australia is perfectly timed with school holidays, and equally well-suited for the Summer break in the Northern Hemisphere. If you’re looking for advice on toilet breaks, however, go before the movie. There is so much character development and funny moments, you want to be toilet-trained before you go.

And yes. Stay for the credits. It’s a Marvel movie. What else are you going to do?

… Can’t … say … more …

Just remember: Stay Away From ALL Spoilers. The collective gasp from the audience is enough to know your ignorance is worth it. At least this time.

4 out of 5 inches

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  • I was invited to a preview screening on Wednesday 4 July 2018. All opinions are my own. I cannot be bought with free tickets and free popcorn and free water. Throw a frozen Coke in and we might talk… 😉

World Environment Day 2018: Beat Plastic Pollution

I finally came up for a breather from my plans for world domination … and it’s World Environment Day (Tuesday, 5 June 2018).

As serendipity would have it, I was nudged with a reminder while watching Netflix’s The Crown (don’t judge me). I’m up to the episode about ‘The Smog of London’. Don’t be fooled by “TV Land”: The Great Smog was a very real and deathly event, every bit as confronting and devastating as portrayed in my new favourite series.

Environmental Reform: Where To Begin

Why is the “Great Smog of London” so important to me on World Environment Day? Because it was the beginning of the most important step in modern environmentalism: The First Step. The British Government (thanks to Winston Churchill) was so focused on portraying the image of industrial success, it did not want to stop and think about long-term consequences. The Great Smog was the direct culmination of unfortunate weather behaviour collecting airborne pollutants, predominantly from the use of coal. The event itself was pretty bad but the enduring consequences were the true measure of the environmental impact. Initial estimates claimed 4,000 deaths directly related to the Great smog; subsequent research has since increased this number by a further 6,000 in the following months.

Once officials realised exactly what was happening, changes took place to reduce the impact of future events. New regulations were introduced, restricting the use of dirty fuels and banning black smoke. Londoners were encouraged (with financial incentives), to find alternatives to coal fires. Legislation during the 1950s focused on ‘Clean Air’ and helped reduce air pollution. Changes were made, and mostly because the city was forced to realise the impact of THEIR actions on the environment around them. And while London continues to struggle with air quality, there is still a better relationship between government and public for taking action.

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London 1952, during the Great Smog – image from public domain

What Does The Great Smog Have to Do with World Environment Day?

London is a good example of governments taking action to bring about change. However, it is also a great example of how we can’t wait for governments to force us into action. We, as individuals, need to take action now and on our own merits. We can do it as individuals or we can come together on days like today. World Environment Day.

The point of an international day is to raise awareness and bring the community together in one solid message. This year the message is: Beat Plastic Pollution. If you can’t reuse it, refuse it. Instead of suffocating in smog, we are now drowning in plastic. It’s time to commit to change.

Tag! You’re It!

If you’re reading this, consider yourself ‘tagged’!

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This year, I am committing to beating plastic pollution by giving up single-use plastic straws and utensils. I have already been ‘tagged’ by supportive friends who have provided the spawnlings with sustainable alternatives: Bamboo travel kits. Easy to clean and easy on the environment.

But I can’t do this alone. So, I’m tagging GeekMom and all of my fellow writers at GeekMom to consider how they can help Beat Plastic Pollution. Give up single-use plastic and make a difference. Head over to GeekMom to read more about we can do to help (I wrote that article too).

I’m also tagging Hoyts Cinemas and Event Cinemas in Australia, and ask them to consider how they can swap out any single-use plastic in their ‘Snack Bars’ for environmentally friendly alternatives.

You can join in too. Share your commitment to social media and tag Evil Genius Mum, GeekMom, and the official hashtags: #BeatPlasticPollution and #WED2018. And if you know of someone, individual or organisation, who can help beat plastic pollution and commit to change – tag them too!

Let’s face it: It’s fun to celebrate international days, like World Environment Day. It’s fun to be part of a big community with some social media presence. But it is even more fun to live in a clean environment. We can’t take that for granted. We need to make a difference right now.

Because as pretty as The Crown may tell its story, I sure don’t want to make my today look anything like London in the 1950s.

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Twitter: @evilgeniusmum1

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Public Health Systems Are The Best

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We have had an … interesting week. In the grand scheme of things, it is fairly mild and moderate compared to others. And my ability to say that sentence comes with a fairly healthy dose of gratitude.

EG Sinister had emergency surgery earlier this week. Without going into all the details, he had severe pain on Monday night and it was not calming on its own.

Like most parents, we considered our options:

  1. Panadol and sleep on it
  2. Dial-a-Doctor (or whatever it is called) where a GP comes to your house after hours without cost because it’s covered by Medicare and our awesome public health system
  3. Take him to the hospital, about 7mins drive from our house, which is a public hospital and no cost for us to attend the Emergency Ward.

 

Considering the level of pain he was in, we took option 3. That’s right–we had options and we could choose one at our convenience with only Sinister’s health in our mind. That is a huge privilege not shared with many around the world.

When Sinister and I arrived at the hospital, he was helped by a security guard and nurse into the Waiting Room. He was seen to by a triage nurse and then brought to the Paediatrics ward, all within a 20-minutes.

As the pain increased, he was quickly attended to, first by a doctor and then by a specialist who organised emergency surgery. They arranged surgery within an hour of the specialist’s consultation, around 1am.

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The good news is Sinister was out and moved to the Children’s Ward by 4am the same morning. Once again, at no expense to us and without delay.

Now, I want to add a bit here: We have private hospital cover as well. However, in an emergency, we go to the closest emergency ward available (our local public hospital). If any of us are admitted to the hospital, the public system will pay for our excess and then claim the rest back from the private health insurance provider. We are still contributing towards the public health system, the insurance company still receives its excess, we receive the immediate care required and have no out of pocket costs.

What I don’t understand is why anyone would be against public health systems? I am more than happy for my taxes to contribute to a universal health care, especially for our less fortunate. Hell, I have been that less fortunate person earlier in my life and the difference between private and public is huge.

Flashback: When I was around 20-years-old, I had a severe asthma attack at work. It started off slowly, at which point a colleague took me to the GP next door to see if we could prevent it from worsening. No such luck and the GP called the ambulance.

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What I didn’t know at the time (since I was trying to breathe and stuff) was the GP had given the ambulance drivers instructions to take me to St Andrew’s Hospital, a private hospital, for observation. In doing so, they drove past the public hospital. Subsequently, I was charged $350 for turning up in an ambulance and receiving a chest x-ray. Even the ambulance driver commented, an x-ray is not necessary–she needs oxygen and observation.

Imagine having to face this every time you were ill. Every time you feel your chest tighten or the second dose of Ventolin isn’t working, you freak out at the cost of receiving the urgent care you need to survive. In Australia, it sounds insane. But we are pretty lucky compared to others.

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Our health system is not perfect. We can have weeks to wait for a GP appointment. I know some people who have 6-12mths waiting for specialist appointments for their weak hearts or kidney stones. But generally speaking, you can drive right up to the door of any public hospital and know there are a bunch of nurses and doctors who are eager to do their best to help you. I have visited our hospital often enough to know we have a large number of nurses and doctors who want to help.

And that’s important to note: Our public health system is brilliant but it is held up on the shoulders of all the hard-working staff at the hospital. They are human, like the rest of us, but we place heavy expectations on them to perform miracles. Often they do; sometimes they don’t. Either way, they deserve as much appreciation as the system which allows us to access them.

If you are fortunate enough to have access to a working public health system, make sure you take the time to thank the staff who provide it. For those who either do not have or do not support universal healthcare, I would be really interested to hear your reasons why.

Oh, and Sinister: He is absolutely fine. He is recovering really well, taking a few days off from school and resting as much as he can. He now has a new pain benchmark and a new respect for the solid advice he has been given for a speedy recovery.

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View from the hospital bed. 

EG Dad and I are also recovering well, finally catching up on sleep and not stressing over every sound made by the spawnlings.

Parenting, right? At least we’re doing it within driving distance of a public hospital.

Total Lunar Eclipse: 31 January 2018

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Remember the last Lunar Eclipse visible in Australia? Last year, in 2017, just before the Solar Eclipse that sent everyone in the United States crazy (or at least a little crazier than usual)?

Remember how it was at 3am?

There was nothing partial about my dislike for waking up at that ridiculous hour. *ugh*

Clearly, someone heard my complaint and has acted accordingly: Australia is being graced with a Full Lunar Eclipse next Wednesday, 31 January 2018, starting at the far more respectable time of 9.30pm (Sydney time… Because that’s where I am and that’s all that matters).

So What Is a Lunar Eclipse?

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes behind the Earth and into its shadow. The Moon does not have its own light source; that big pizza pie in the sky is reflecting light from the Sun on to the Earth. So when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are all aligned, it means the Moon will pass into the shadow of the Earth. This also means a lunar eclipse only happens during a full moon. Waxing and Waning Moons occur due to the odd-angle the Moon sits relative to the Earth and the Sun.

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Image based on explanation from EG Nefarious

Some cultures used to refer to a total lunar eclipse as a blood moon. When the direct sunlight is completely blocked, the only other light seen is refracted through Earth’s shadow. This light looks red because of the ‘rayleigh scattering‘ – that’s the scattering of light by particles. XKCD explains it much better than I could.

Not to be mistaken with a ‘blood moon’ from Zelda: Breath of the Wild, resulting in the resurrection of thousands of Trump-ettes, eagerly waiting to return to their attacks of ignorance and hate.

 

Where Can I See the Lunar Eclipse?

The good news about Lunar Eclipses is they tend to be visible by larger sections of the planet than Solar Eclipses. On 31 January 2018, the lunar eclipse should be visible partially throughout the US, Canada, Central America, Central Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern and Central Europe. For the full-blown total lunar eclipse, pull up a seat in Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, and East Asia. Check your local visibility times through any number of websites; I like Time and Date because they have neat visuals.

 

Is This the Same As a Solar Eclipse?

No, more like the complete opposite. The solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, plunging the world into darkness!! Well, again… an exaggeration but the effect is far more dramatic. You won’t need special glasses for a lunar eclipse; it is totally safe to see—so long as you’re not driving a car, or lying down in the middle of a road, or similar activities. A solar eclipse is also a lot shorter than a lunar eclipse and limited to a smaller viewing area of the world. I also talked about eclipses around the Solar Eclipse of 2017.

 

So, if the spawnlings are still wired and awake at 9.45pm next Wednesday due to the first week back at school, you may want to consider checking the start of the lunar eclipse. Of course, now that it is at a decent hour, if I’m not on the social media you will find me asleep on the couch.