The September 27th Total Lunar eclipse

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Dr. Mel Blake

Dr. Mel Blake

Many things that happen in the sky have been traditionally viewed as omens of doom or disaster. Comets, solar and lunar eclipses were all viewed with apprehension and fear. People thought that maybe there would be a famine or a war or the king would die suddenly, as predicted by astrologers watching the events unfold. One of the most dreaded were eclipses of the Moon. Lunar eclipses occur when the Moon, on its monthly orbit around the Earth, happens to pass into the shadow of the Earth. This causes the sunlight to be cut off from the Moon, and the full Moon slowly darkens into the dreaded “Blood Moon”. We know now that the red color is caused by sunlight passing through the atmosphere of the Earth and hitting the Moon. Red sunlight is able to be transmitted through the Earth’s atmopshere and so the eclipsed Moon looks red. Rather than creating fear, most people now look forward to events like the lunar eclipses.
On September 27th, the Moon will travel into the shadow of the Earth, causing a lunar eclipse. When this happens observers see the Moon go from full, to slowly having a little bite taken out of it as the Earth’s shadow slowly blocks the light of the Sun from the Moon’s surface. The event will start at 7:12 p.m. CDT and last until 12:23 a.m. CDT. There are four mains stages of the eclipse. The first, which is called the penumbral stage, occurs when the Moon moves into the outer shadow of the Earth. During the penumbral stage, from the point of view of an observer on the Moon, part of the Sun’s total_lunar_eclipse_1disk is blocked by the Earth. Most observers will not notice the penumbral stage of the eclipse until it is nearly half over, at approximately 7:45 p.m. The next stage of the eclipse is the partial eclipse phase, at 8:07 p.m., when the Moon moves into the inner part of the Earth’s shadow called the umbra. Here, even the casual observer will see a small part of the Moon “missing” as if it were a cookie with a bite taken out of it. The Moon will then start its total eclipse phase, at 9:11 p.m., when it is entirely inside the Earth’s shadow. This is the so-called “Blood Moon” because the Moon looks like a red disk on the sky. Once the total eclipse ends the phases reverse themselves, with the partial eclipse phase returning as the Moon leaves the Earth’s shadow followed by the penumbral phase, ending at about 12:23 p.m.
planetariumIf the weather cooperates this will be a great eclipse to watch science  observers in the Shoals should be able to see the entire eclipse from start to finish. You do not need any special equipment to watch the eclipse, just a warm blanket and good company. It is also very photogenic and you may be able to get some good photos. UNA planetarium will be open from around 7:00 p.m. until about midnight for those wanting to look at the eclipse through the telescopes. All are welcome.

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