Station Fire Moon

Over the last few days thousands of photos of the Station fire have been posted on the internet by many people. I have myself posted photos to Facebook of the fire that burned behind JPL on Friday night and some of these have been picked up and reposted elsewhere by others.

Astronomers have been hearing about the imminent danger that Mt. Wilson has been in and every night for the past few nights I have periodically stepped outside into my back yard and peered up to see if the antenna towers are still visible. Usually the peak has been swathed in clouds of smoke completely invisible from Pasadena but tonight when I stepped out they were still visible. The moon, shown in the photo I took this evening, was also up and is a bright orange, typically only seen during an eclipse and referred to as a blood moon by some cultures. These days we know that the orange colour we see tonight is due to light scattering from the large amounts of smoke and ash in the atmosphere that have been catching at our throats for the past few days but historically a blood moon was thought to foretell coming disaster and destruction.

Tonight is expected to be the night when the fire will make it’s assault on the historic observatory on Mt. Wilson. The weather today has been much better for fighting the fire and the defences on Mt. Wilson have been buttressed as much as possible during the day. A good account of the measures taken can be found on the Los Angeles Time L.A. Now blog. However as I look up at the mountain and then at tonight’s blood moon I can’t help but shiver. On this night our hopes and prayers are with the fire fighters that have remained on the mountain overnight to defend our history.