updated 18 Mar 99
"Once in a blue moon" so the saying goes. This is the Blue Moon of January 1999. A Blue Moon is the second full moon in a month. This Blue Moon is rising for me over Bryce Canyon National Park.
The sun will set in five minutes, the moon is an astral galleon rising over the red cliffs that backdrop Bryce Canyon. The moon has been up barely two minutes, so being the in right place at the right time took some good luck and good stalking skills -- as well as good cold tolerance. When the sun was high earlier in the day the air was warm, but as this shot is being taken the chills draughts are already on the move. By dawn the temperature here will be well below freezing.
Freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw... expand, contract, expand, contract... 200 days a year this rock freezes at night and thaws during the day. And it can't take it! Rock was never meant to stand up to this kind of abuse, and it doesn't. The cliffs are constantly melting away under this punishment. But some rocks can take it more than others. Those rocks form the columns. They last a bit longer -- a few hundred to a few thousand years -- then they melt away, too. But before they do we humans get to see the wonder of Bryce.
Here's the same scene a ten minutes later. The view is wider, but the moon has risen out of sight. Sunlight still pinkens the upper sky, but the lower sky and cliffs are now in full shadow. In ten more minutes the brightest stars in the east will begin to twinkle.