Science and religion make for an odious mixture. But tonight, legions of astronomers of the professional and amateur variety will be praying for clear skies to better see a total lunar eclipse.
Should their prayers not be answered, in the spirit of science, observers should record what manner of profanities are uttered by learned men and women denied their chance to view a celestial wonder.
"A lunar eclipse is very exciting," says San Francisco State astronomy professor Chris McCarthy. "It's unusual to see a total lunar eclipse. You may get to see one a year, if you're lucky." In San Francisco, that's a very big if.
While one has to travel to a specific, far-flung locale on the earth's surface to observe a total solar eclipse, anyone able to see the moon can enjoy tonight's total lunar eclipse.
Assuming a clear line of sight, McCarthy expects the effects of the eclipse to be noticeable by 10:30 p.m., when the moon's orbit begins to fall in the shadow of the earth. "That will cause a bite to be taken out of the moon that's bigger and bigger until it's totally eclipsed."