The first time I heard the word Planetarium was when I was about 8 years old when my parents took us on a trip to the local planetarium. I was not very interested in visiting until I entered the Planetarium. Walking into the theatre, I was in awe of the celestial beauty that was displayed in front of me. I was enthralled by the images of millions and millions of stars, planets and other celestial objects that were put on display.
That visit incited an interest in the subject of Astronomy so much that I started following news about celestial events. I love to read about the celestial incidents, watch videos on the various discoveries and inventions in the field. I am an ardent follower of NASA and watch almost anything and everything they publish!
What is my lifelong dream? To buy a telescope and go on star gazing trips! Wow, if I could do that that would be the best gift I could ever give myself. Coming back to reality, that is not something I can afford to do now. So instead, I do the next best thing, enjoy those celestial events that can be viewed by the naked eye and read about the ones that cannot!
Yesterday (September 27, 2015) was an important day for any lover of Astronomy. Not only was it the Lunar Eclipse but it was also the Supermoon! Why should that be such a big deal, you wonder?
For those of you, who are not erudite in the field, allow me to elaborate (Yup, I never let go of an opportunity to talk about Astronomy!) about Lunar Eclipse and the Super Moon!
Lunar eclipses occur when Earth’s shadow blocks the sun’s light, which otherwise reflects off the moon. There are three types — total, partial and penumbral — with the most dramatic being a total lunar eclipse, in which Earth’s shadow completely covers the moon.
A lunar eclipse can occur only at full moon. A total lunar eclipse can happen only when the sun, Earth and moon are perfectly lined up — anything less than perfection creates a partial lunar eclipse or no eclipse at all. Because the moon’s orbit around Earth lies in a slightly different plane than Earth’s orbit around the sun, perfect alignment for an eclipse doesn’t occur at every full moon. A total lunar eclipse develops over time, typically a couple hours for the whole event.
Here’s how it works: Earth casts two shadows that fall on the moon during a lunar eclipse: The umbra is a full, dark shadow. The penumbra is a partial outer shadow. The moon passes through these shadows in stages. The initial and final stages — when the moon is in the penumbral shadow — are not so noticeable, so the best part of an eclipse is during the middle of the event, when the moon is in the umbral shadow.
Total eclipses are a rarity of cosmic happenchance. Ever since the moon formed, about 4.5 billion years ago, it has been inching away from our planet (by about 1.6 inches, or 4 centimeters per year). The arrangement right now is perfect: the moon is at the perfect distance for Earth’s shadow to cover the moon totally, but just barely. Billions of years from now, that won’t be the case!
The moon may turn red or coppery colored during the total portion of an eclipse. The red moon is possible because while the moon is in total shadow, some light from the sun passes through Earth’s atmosphere and is bent toward the moon. While other colors in the spectrum are blocked and scattered by Earth’s atmosphere, red light tends to make it through easier. The effect is to cast all the planet’s sunrises and sunsets on the moon.
“The exact color that the moon appears depends on the amount of dust and clouds in the atmosphere”, according to NASA scientists. “If there are extra particles in the atmosphere, from say a recent volcanic eruption, the moon will appear a darker shade of red.” Thus the name Supermoon!
Again, why is that a big deal? Because the simultaneous event of a Supermoon combined with a lunar eclipse, which leaves the moon shrouded in an eerie red glow will not happen again until 2033! The last time it happened was in the year 1982 and it has only happened five times since the beginning of the 20th century. Now you see why this is so important for all Star Gazers!
This short animated video explains the phenomenon brilliantly!
I watched the event as the partial eclipse phase started at 9:07 p.m. until around 10.10 p.m., when the moon reached totality, completely immersed in the umbral shadow, and swathed in a red coppery glow! The beauty of the occurrence and the final appearance of the moon are inexplicable! My little one and I both tried clicking some pictures, but did not manage to capture much save for these (both clicks by my little man) which turned out okay, I guess!
Did you observe the Supermoon Lunar Eclipse? Let me know your views on such celestial events on the comments below!
[Source – NASA and Space.com]