Fall Friends/Family Star Party – October 30, 2014

The APL Astronomy Club’s Friends & Family Star Party will be held on Thursday, October 30th, at 7pm until 9pm or so, depending on how things are going, how many enthusiastic people are present, etc.

Star gazing (and telescope viewing) is always dependent and contingent upon the weather. Please check back to this post as the date draws nigh to verify whether or not the star party has been cancelled due to inclimate weather (rain and clouds being the biggest impactors). We will be putting weather updates here as they are necessary, though at this point the conditions for Thursday evening look favorable for us (finally!). There will be no rain date.

APLers and their friends and families are all invited to attend. Club members will have several telescopes out for your viewing pleasure, but feel free to bring your own optics if you have them – the more, the merrier!

PLEASE: NO FLASHLIGHTS! (red light or red celophane covered flashlights would be perfectly fine, though) Also, turn the screen brightness *down* on personal electronics.

Where: On the lawn by the Big Dish, outside the security fence, on the west side of the main campus. See map to right.

Clothing: dress as if the temperatures will be 10 degrees colder than what the weather prognosticators are calling for! (standing around looking through telescopes is not the most heat-generating activity you can do at night) Hats and hoods are most helpful in keeping warm.

Sunset: 6:09 pm EDT
End civil twilight: 7:30 pm EDT

Moonset: ~12:22am EDT Oct 31
Moon phase: First Quarter (~50% illuminated)

The Second Great Total Lunar Eclipse of 2014 – This Wednesday AM

Greetings, everyone,

This coming Wednesday morning will be the second of four successive total lunar eclipses spanning the 2014/2015 years. Having a series of four total lunar eclipses (solar eclipses don’t count) with no partials in between is known as a tetrad. The first of these occurred back in April of this year (I got not only clouded out, but thunderstormed out), the second happens in less than two days, the next two happen next year. The last tetrad occurred during 2003/2004, the next tetrad won’t be until 2032/2033.

The 2014/2015 tetrad of eclipses has been/will be visible from greater North America in some way, shape, or form, portions of South America, eastern Asia, and Australia. (sorry, Europe and Africa are getting shut out of this – but then you guys in Africa had a nice total-to-annular solar eclipse last year 😉 ).

This second eclipse will, unfortunately, not be well-placed to viewing for those in the eastern portion of North America, as the Moon will be setting during or shortly after it reaches total eclipse, minutes before sunrise. For those in the same time zone as Maryland, the Moon will reach maximum eclipse (at 6:55am) a mere 16 minutes before sunrise. (7:11am). The saving grace is that it will just get fully covered by Earth’s shadow just before 6:30am – but it is going to be very low in the western sky.

However, for those of you on the West Coast of North America, and in the greater Pacific region, you’ll have an opportunity to witness the entire event from start to finish.

For the East Coasters, the eclipse really won’t get underway in any meaningful manner until ~5:15am. So you don’t have to stay up all night for this (you do, however, have to get up REALLY early! 😉 ).

As always, here are some links for you to check out for more information:

Time And Date.com:


Space.com notes that this particular eclipse may be a ‘selenelion’ for some folks – meaning that due to Earth’s atmosphere’s refraction properties, you will be able to see the moon fully in Earth’s shadow at the same time as the sun rises! But you will need VERY flat, open, and uncluttered eastern and western horizons to see this.

More diagrams and maps here:


and here:


Animation graphic of the Moon’s path through Earth’s shadow will be the morning of October 8th:


If you want to really get your geek on, you can play around with this page, the United States Naval Observatory’s eclipse calculator:


As a side note, toward the end of the month there will be an opportunity to catch a partial solar eclipse in a small section of the world (mostly the entirety of North America). More details (and eclipse coverage maps) here:


and here (among other sites, if you decide to google around) :


Right now, for me, the local weather forecast is…less than stellar (more like clouds and rain – almost a repeat of this past April’s eclipse :-/ ). But hopefully the skies will clear. And hopefully they’ll be clear for you, too. Good luck, and enjoy!