Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Super/Blood/Awesome Moon!

Source: CNN
Sunday night's total lunar eclipse was an impressive sight in the skies over Newport News--between rain showers, anyway!  I arrived at the Virginia Living Museum at about 1845, joining two other members of the Virginia Peninsula Astronomy/Stargazers (VPAS for short) and setting-up our instruments on the Museum's "grassy knoll".  We were there to support the evening's "Total Luna-See" eclipse-observing event, bringing our own equipment out to supplement the Museum's and to introduce the public to amateur astronomy.

Conditions looked awful as I prepared my Astroscan for action; the skies were overcast and threatening to continue the trend of heavy shower activity that had dominated the weather all weekend.  This was one reason why I had brought this particular telescope, of course; the Edmund Astroscan is extremely portable and can be assembled and/or disassembled in seconds.  The second reason was to give Members of the Public a view thru a basic, inexpensive telescope; one less intimidating than many (gadget-laden) modern amateur instruments.  Obviously, I'm a big fan of this simple, easy-to-use telescope; I've owned one since they were first introduced in the late 1970s!
The Mighty (if miniscule) Astroscan!
In all there were three instruments on the grassy knoll for the public to view the eclipse through; my Astroscan (perched on a picnic table), Bob's 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain reflector and Bird's tripod-mounted binoculars.  In addition Astronomy Curator Kelly Herbst was busy with her team, working-through some technical issues to get a live-feed of the eclipse set-up in the cafe.  Not a bad idea, considering the weather!

The overcast did have some small clear-spots by the time our natural satellite rose above the trees that surround the Museum, and when first Umbral contact rolled around--just past 2100--we were actually seeing the Moon clearly for brief periods.  By this time there was a considerable crowd of drip-dry observers gathered around the site, and we worked hard to ensure that as many people as possible got a glimpse of the developing eclipse before the clear apertures in the cloud-cover moved on!

Frequent readers will already be aware that I enjoy new astronomical experiences.  Some will even know the story of how I once observed a lunar eclipse from the Arabian desert--during a sandstorm!  At this juncture I can report that the total lunar eclipse of 27-28 September gave me an entirely new opportunity... the chance to view an astronomical event through a distant cloud-hole while rain poured down upon me and my telescope.  Thank goodness I had my dew-cap in place--and a helpful guest's raincoat held over the eyepiece!

Totality came...not the much-ballyhooed "Blood Moon" but a darker, more sullen affair.  The CNN image above shows the Moon just entering totality, with a rime of sunlit-regolith along one edge of the disk; at full-eclipse I would estimate it to have been an L=2 on the "Danjon Scale" below:
  • L = 0: Very dark eclipse, moon almost invisible, especially in mid-totality.
  • L = 1: Dark eclipse, gray or brownish coloration, details distinguishable only with difficulty.
  • L = 2: Deep red or rust-colored eclipse, with a very dark central part in the shadow, and outer edge of the umbra relatively bright.
  • L = 3: Brick-red eclipse, usually with a bright or yellow rim to the shadow.
  • L = 4: Very bright copper-red or orange eclipse, with a bluish, very bright shadow  rim.                                                                                                   Source: Space.Com
In any case, it was an impressive show courtesy of the combined motions of Earth and Moon about the Sun--and a great experience for all who dared the inclement weather on Sunday night.  I was very impressed by the fortitude of the forty or so people (many with kids) who stuck it out with us at the Virginia Living Museum until past midnight, and I'm happy to have been able to attend and help out in this impressive and fun "outreach" event.

Next time, in addition to my Plossl eyepieces and moon-map I think I'll pack an umbrella and rain- slicker!

No comments:

Post a Comment