Sunday, December 26, 2010

Watching the solstice eclipse from the Dettah ice road

Even though it was minus 20, plus wind chill, there was an impressive turnout on the Dettah ice road on December 20 for the super special solstice eclipse. Cars, trucks, snowmobiles, parasailors – even a lone cyclist pedalling past in the dark. The ice road between Yellowknife and Dettah – a First Nations community across Yellowknife Bay – is the ideal observation spot because it is close to town, but there’s little light pollution.

We watched from the relative comfort of our little SUV – sun roof (moon roof?) cranked open so we could see the Earth’s shadow slowly move across the face of the moon. The visibility was excellent, and the moon seemed to pop right out of the sky when we looked through the binoculars. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a red moon before, so was pretty impressed when the eclipse reached totality.

We had Christmas choirs playing on the satellite radio, which added to the sense of grandeur. When we felt chilled, we turned on the vehicle for a bit. Between fumbling with cameras and binoculars in the cold, and our heated car seats, we had a unique northern experience of getting frostbite on our fingers at the same time we got first degree burns on our butts!