Events to mark rare total lunar eclipse

Weather permitting, local astronomy buffs will be able to get a glimpse of a full lunar eclipse on W

Weather permitting, local astronomy buffs will be able to get a glimpse of a full lunar eclipse on Wednesday.

Steve Russo, planetarium manager at the Suits-Bueche Planetarium at the Schenectady Museum, said he’s keeping his fingers crossed that clear skies will prevail for the eclipse so that events can go on as planned.

“To see a full lunar eclipse is kind of nice. The main part of this lasts almost two hours, unlike a solar eclipse which lasts just a couple of minutes,” said Russo. And, he said, many people are into the full moon anyway and the colors can be vivid red or oranges.

The partial eclipse will begin at 8:43 p.m. and the total eclipse will begin at 10:01 p.m. and end at 10:51 p.m. Wednesday.

Partial phases of the eclipse will last for an hour and a quarter before and after the total eclipse, according to Sky and Telescope astronomy magazine’s Web site.

The full moon will get entirely eclipsed as it passes through the darker shadow of the Earth which is the umbra, (which is where we get the word “umbrella” for a covering), according to Russo.

The total eclipse begins when the last bit of the moon slips into the umbra and for this eclipse the totality will last 52 minutes, according to Sky and Telescope.

The last total eclipse was on Aug. 28, 2007, and Russo said the next one visible in New York and the East Coast will be in December 2010.

Penumbral eclipses are more frequent and occur when the moon passes through the penumbra, or outer shadow of the Earth, and they are not nearly as visible as a full lunar eclipse.

Protective filters are not necessary, and neither is a telescope, to view a lunar eclipse. It can be observed with nothing more than the naked eye. However, a pair of binoculars will magnify the view and make the red coloration brighter and easier to see. A standard pair of 7×35 or 7×50 binoculars is sufficient, according to NASA.

Anyone interested can observe the lunar eclipse through telescopes that will be set up at the Schenectady Museum with the help of the Suits-Bueche Planetarium staff and local astronomy groups. Short planetarium shows focusing on the moon and the current night sky will be offered throughout the night.

The events will take place from 8 to 11 p.m. on Wednesday and are weather dependent. The cost is $5 for children, $6 for seniors and $8 for adults. Members are free.

There’s a 30 percent chance of snow on Wednesday, and Russo said that a decision will be made Wednesday afternoon on whether to hold observation events at the planetarium for the lunar eclipse.

“The main event is the eclipse and we are keeping our fingers crossed,” he said.

Eastern Mountain Sports in Niskayuna is organizing a Full Moon Hike, and anyone interested should meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Plotter Kill Preserve in Schenectady. For directions and to register, call Eastern Mountain Sports in Niskayuna at 388-2700.

Categories: Schenectady County

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