Special Viewing Sessions - Eclipses, Transits, etc.

Occasionally, Cline Observatory holds viewing sessions for special events such as eclipses, transits, or other remarkable astronomical phenomena.  These sessions are presented in the same manner as our Friday public viewings, though if the situation requires, we may shift our portable telescopes to other locations on campus.

Three hundred visitors came to GTCC to observe the 2012 Venus Transit - a phenomenon that will not be seen on Earth again until 2117.  For more information about this event, see our Transit of Venus page.

Recent special sessions we have scheduled include:

  • Venus Transit   2012 June 05
  • Lunar Eclipse  2010 December 10 (cloudy)
  • Lunar Eclipse  2008 February 21
  • Lunar Eclipse  2007 March 03
  • Mercury Transit  2006 November 08 (cloudy)
  • Lunar Eclipse  2004 October 27
  • Venus Transit  2004 June 06 (cloudy)

Note: Cline Observatory DOES NOT hold special sessions for meteor showers because they are best observed without telescopes, and are usually best seen from dark locations between midnight and dawn.

As with our Friday public viewings, all Cline Observatory special viewing sessions are free and open to anyone with an interest in astronomy.

 

Lunar Eclipses:  No Session on 4 April 2015.  Next Good Eclipse in Sep 2015

A total eclipse of the Moon will occur in the morning hours of Saturday, 4 April.  This is nor a very good eclipse for NC viewers, but in September 2015 we will see a more conveniently-timed late evening total lunar eclipse.

There has been significant hype about these events, with various persons assigning particular significance to the predicted blood-red appearance of the Moon during the eclipse, but there's noting special about this particular eclipse or its appearance.  The Moon usually takes on a reddish hue during mid-eclipse due to effects of Earth's atmosphere.  What IS notable is the fact that it is part of a series of four eclipses visible from our region during the next year and a half.

Due to the early hour of the occurrence of the eclipse, Cline Observatory will not be officially open for public viewing that night, but you don't need to visit an observatory to view an eclipse anyway.  Lunar eclipses are easily observed from any location where the Moon is visible.  No telescopes are necessary.  Just step outside and look up!  (Or in this case, look to the western horizon.)

How Lunar Eclipses Occur

A total eclipse occurs when the Moon passes into the shadow of the Earth, darkening the lunar surface.  (We normally see the Moon by the sunlight it reflects.)  Such events only occur during the full Moon phase, when the Moon is opposite the Sun in the sky.  During most months, the full Moon passes just above or below Earth's shadow, and an eclipse does not occur.   But when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are aligned in the same plane in space, the full Moon passes into our shadow and we see a lunar eclipse. These precise alignments bring us the possibility of lunar eclipses roughly every six months.

Details for this Eclipse

From NC, the total lunar eclipse of 04 April 2015 will only be visible in part during moonset, just morning twilight brightens the sky.  You will see the partial phases beginning as darkness recedes, but during totality, the moon will be below our horizon.  Diagrams showing the regions of visibility and the Moon's path through Earth's shadow can be found at this NASA Eclipse Resource.

Much has been made of the predicted redness of the Moon during this eclipse and its predecessors. And some unscientific predictions of what this "blood Moon" might portend have been circulating widely during the past year.  But red lunar eclipses are normal, and there is no specific significance to the 8 October eclipse or its appearance.

Mid-eclipse occurs in bright twilight at 6:54.  Sunrise is at 7:21 and the Moon sets at 7:26, but you will have lost sight of the eclipsed Moon by then due to horizon obstructions or the bright sky.  All of the stages, from the beginning of partial eclipse, through totality, to the last moment of partial eclipse, are shown in the NASA Eclipse diagram above.

How to View the Eclipse  (No Telescopes Needed - This Event Can Be Viewed at Home)

Lunar eclipses can be viewed from any location where the Moon can be seen - optical aid is not required.  If you're up early on 4 April and the skies are clear, take some time to look outside and follow the progression of the Moon into Earth's shadow before it sets and the sky becomes too bright to spot the Moon.  Telescopes or binoculars will enhance the view, but are not necessary.  What's the latest you could see the moon during morning twilight?

 

Because this eclipse occurs at such an inconvenient hour for the eastern United States, Cline Observatory will not be officially open for public viewing that night.  But a trip to an observatory is not necessary to enjoy an eclipse.  You don't even need a telescope or binoculars.  If you can see the Moon, then you can observe the eclipse, no matter what your location.

This is the Third of a Series of Lunar Eclipses in 2014-2015

This eclipse is the third of a series of four total lunar eclipses, called a tetrad, that will be visible from North America during 2014-2015.  Each of these will progress in a similar manner, but the appearance of the Moon - whether it might appear blood red or bright orange - may be subtly different for each, depending on the Moon's specific path through the darkest part of Earth's shadow, and the state of Earth's atmosphere during each alignment.

The dates for the lunar eclipses in this series, each given with the time of maximum eclipse, are given in the table below.  Note that most of them first occur in the early morning hours or in morning twilight, but the fourth will be visible in the evening.

Date of Eclipse
Partial Eclipse Begins
Mid-point of Eclipse
2014 April 15
1:58 a.m. EDT 
2:46 a.m. EDT
2014 October 08
5:14 a.m. EDT 6:55 a.m. EDT
2015 April 04
6:15 a.m. EDT 8:01 a.m. EDT
2015 September 27 
9:07 p.m. EDT 
10:48 p.m. EDT

Last update 04/02/2015