During the last several weeks, both professional and amateur astronomers have been excited about viewing the Perseid Meteor Shower that occurred August 12 and 13. But, what most people do not realize is that the stargazing event of the year is still a few weeks away!
On Sunday, September 27 there will be a Total Lunar Eclipse and for 72 minutes the moon will be completely enveloped in the deepest part of earth’s shadow (known by astronomers as the umbra). This is the last total lunar eclipse the eastern United States will see until May 2021.
“This is the result of the Moon reaching its closest distance to the Earth for the entire year less than half an hour before the total eclipse begins,” said Zack Stockbridge, astronomy instructor at Tri-County Community College (TCCC). It’s the biggest eclipsed moon you’ll probably ever see!”
Weather permitting, TCCC will host a star party for the lunar eclipse on Sunday, September 27.
“Everyone is invited to come out and watch; the event is free and open to the public,” said Dotie Stafford-Ortega, chair of the TCCC Events Committee. “The Star Party will officially begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Tri-County Community College Main Campus in Peachtree. The party will be located at the field between the NC Forest Service building and the Fire Training Center.
“Anyone with their own telescope is strongly encouraged to bring it. Personally, I would love to see 50 telescopes or more set up in the field for this event,” said Stockbridge. “So many people have telescopes collecting dust in a closet somewhere. This is the perfect opportunity to bring them out and come see something spectacular.”
Stafford-Ortega said attendees are free to arrive any time during the evening. However, anyone bringing a telescope is encouraged to arrive before dark to make it easier to set up their equipment. Also, she said there will be several moon maps available to aide viewers in touring various lunar landmarks. Viewing for the evening will begin by watching the moon rise over the mountains roughly around 8:00 p.m.
“The Moon first touches Earth’s shadow at 9:07 p.m., and during this partial phase of the eclipse we will be able to watch earth’s shadow slowly engulfing crater after crater as it creeps across the face of the moon,” said Stockbridge. “At 10:11 p.m. the moon will be totally eclipsed and remain that way until 11:23 p.m. – 72 minutes of totality followed by another hour of partial eclipse as the moon leaves earth’s shadow behind!
“It is impossible to predict exactly what color the moon will turn during a total lunar eclipse,” he said. “Sometimes it is blood red, other times it is copper-colored, and occasionally it is almost grey. One never knows ahead of time and no two eclipses are exactly the same. All the more reason for you to get out and see this one for yourself.”
Stockbridge has provided a list of tips for enjoying the lunar eclipse:
1.) Come early, set up your space and settle in before dark.
2.) Dress warmly! It can get chilly after dark.
3.) Bring a warm drink and/or snack to enjoy during the event.
4.) For comfortable viewing, bring a lawn chair or blanket to sit/lay in.
5.) Introduce yourself to other people. You never know who you will meet.
For more information about the Total Lunar Eclipse Star Party at Tri-County Community College, please contact Dotie Stafford-Ortega at (828) 835-4208.
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