Skip to comments.Skies clear and crowds flock to observatories for total lunar eclipse
Posted on 11/09/2003 12:20:22 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
CINCINNATI -- Sky-watchers in every continent but Australia reveled in the relative rarity of a total lunar eclipse Saturday night -- but as stargazers have noted for centuries, it was a matter of celestial perspective.
"From the moon, they're having a solar eclipse," said Dean Regas, an astronomer at the Cincinnati Observatory Center.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon, Earth and sun are in alignment and the moon passes through the planet's shadow. In a solar eclipse, the Earth is in the moon's shadow.
The Cincinnati Observatory, which claims to be the oldest in the United States, was founded in 1842 and has been in its current location on the city's east side since 1871.
It had one of its biggest nights ever Saturday, as officials estimated about 800 people stood in line for a chance to peer through the observatory's telescope.
Outside, amateur astronomers set up telescopes on one of the city's highest promontories. Bill Lewis, a 53-year old computer programmer from suburban Montgomery, declared the viewing a success.
"It's a good one, because the sky is so clear," he said, adjusting the focus on his new $500 rig. "I thought there would be about 10 of us crazies out here, but look at the crowd."
Unlike in May, when the last total lunar eclipse was visible from North America, the sky was mostly clear Saturday night -- except for light, feathery clouds at the moment the moon was totally covered, about 8:10 p.m. EST.
Total lunar eclipses can range in color -- from dark brown and red to bright orange, yellow and even gray -- depending on how much dust and clouds are in the Earth's atmosphere. Saturday night's eclipse appeared light red to many people and brownish to others.
Residents of the eastern United States could view the eclipse from beginning to end, about 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., but it was already under way when the moon rose around sunset in the West.
Lunar eclipses are expected on May 4 and Oct. 28 next year, but the first will not be visible from North America, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Upstairs, on the third floor of the Astronaut Memorial Planetarium and Observatory, fans chattered about the crimson moon peeking in and out of clouds during Saturday night's lunar eclipse.
The observatory -- at Brevard Community College Cocoa campus--was dark and small telescopes were strategically placed on the outdoor tables of the third floor for people to look.
It was enough for Jeff Parker to drive to the Space Coast from Orlando, where he had taken a business trip.
"When I look at it, I think: Well, once upon a time, someone walked up there, and it's a pity that we haven't gone back in almost 30 years," Parker said, as he looked up at the moon.
Georgia Karagiorgi, a 20-year-old Florida Tech physics major, went to the observatory as part of a class she's taking.
"It's pretty cool, but it's much cooler if you can see it through a telescope," she said.
The reason the moon was reddish in color is because sunlight bends around the Earth during the eclipse -- cool information to know if you ask 20-year-old Steve Brooks.
"I'm a biology major, so a lot of this is new to me. I never knew why the moon turned red," he said.
The eclipse seemed to sustain the moon's regular white color on the bottom, observed Rich Edwards, a volunteer of the astronomy society at the college.
But that was hardly a disappointment.
"For weather in Florida, this is a very good eclipse . . .because the moon is steady. I haven't seen one this good since '97 and that was only a partial eclipse," Edwards said.
Bob Barrows of Suntree said he felt a calling to be at the observatory on Saturday night.
"Almost like something spectacular was going to happen," Barrows said. "(It) more than met my expectations." [end]
Sky watchers gathered in the dark on rooftops across Tampa Bay to watch the Earth cast a shadow over its moon Saturday. ***ST. PETERSBURG - On the roof, in the dark, he grabbed her hand and waited for the moon.
It glowed clear and bright. Then it glowed smaller, becoming a half moon, then a rusty red sliver. Briefly, it disappeared, leaving its dark, dusty outline on the night sky.
The couple watched, content and quiet, taking in the second total lunar eclipse of the year.
"I've never seen one before," said Shandi King, 27, a computer science major at St. Petersburg College.
Nor had her boyfriend, Derrick Snead, 31, a prelaw major at the college. "It's a beautiful sight," he said.
They were among several dozen stargazers who gathered on a rooftop at St. Petersburg College on Saturday night to view the eclipse, which began shortly after 6:30 p.m.
On the warm, cloudy night, the Earth moved between the sun and the moon, casting its shadow over the moon's cold, rocky surface. By 8 p.m., the moon had lost most of its light.
While it disappeared, an exuberance filled the rooftop, with parents, grandparents and children looking through telescopes and pointing to the sky, searching for Venus or Orion between glances at the moon.
A man with a beard stood alone, smiling.
"Something to marvel at," he said.
The moon admirer was Jim Oliver, 64, who has been attending astronomy lectures at the college for several years, a hobby he has indulged since he retired from being a Pinellas County teacher in 1996.
Now, he makes time for stargazing and sunsets.
"The sky is fascinating and so permanent," he said. "So much in our lives changes. But every night, the moon will be there - even if we can't see it. I like that."
Across Tampa Bay, people were watching, too.
By 6:34 p.m., a crowd of 50 huddled atop the IMAX Dome Theatre at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa.
"I'm fascinated by the moon," said Jennifer Pereira, 27, who drove from St. Petersburg with her friends. "I like lunar eclipses more than solar eclipses because they're peaceful and a lot easier to look at."
Diane and Paul Myers of Largo said they come to MOSI about 50 times a year, but they especially love the sky watching parties.
"We enjoy the camaraderie," Diane Myers said. "It's a real happening, and everyone knows each other."
Their two children, Anastasia, 5, and Selden, 2, appeared to be having a good time at the star party, but the couple wasn't sure how much their son was learning.
"We don't think Selden really knows what an eclipse is," Diane Myers said. "He calls the moon "big ball."'
"But he's excited," Paul Myers said. "It's good to get the kids excited about this."
Jackie Garcia, of New Port Richey, said the eclipse was a great excuse to hang out with her husband, son and daughter.
"This is family time," Garcia said. "Life is so hectic. We're never home together, and we always seem to be running in all these different directions. This is nice. We're bonding."
As the clouds melted away, revealing the celestial show, the crowd was impressed.
"It's beautiful," said Kevin Smith, 22, of St. Petersburg. "It makes you feel good. It's Mother Nature at work.***
shouldn't the article include the ENTIRE hemisphere that happened to be in DAYLIGHT at the time; with the Moon on the opposite side of the Earth from them??!!!???