January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

Get Ready for October’s Two Eclipses

Posted: Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Revised October 7, 2014

by Robert C. Victor

There are two eclipses in October 2014. First up is a total lunar eclipse in the predawn hours of Wednesday, October 8. (Set your alarm when you turn in for the night on Tuesday, October 7.) Owing to the unfortunate timing of this lunar eclipse during early predawn hours, the event might not be widely seen by elementary school students. The brief total lunar eclipse on April 4, 2015, centered on 5:00 a.m. PDT, may be somewhat more convenient to observe. The lunar eclipse on the evening of September 27, 2015 will be just about perfect for public viewing in California, with the Moon in partial eclipse as it rises around sunset; in total eclipse during 7:11-8:23 p.m. PDT; and out of the umbra by 9:27 p.m.

Here are the times for the various stages of the October 8, 2014 lunar eclipse for the Pacific Time Zone. Moon’s position in the sky is given for Palm Springs, CA. Report the brightness and color of the Moon at beginning, middle, and end of totality, at 3:25 a.m., 3:55 a.m., and 4:24 a.m. PDT: http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/OH/OHres/Danjon.html.

EclipseStagesTable

During totality in Palm Springs, CA, Uranus (mag. 5.7) should be visible in binoculars nearly 1.0° to the left or lower left of the center of the eclipsed Moon. A medium to high power telescope reveals the planet’s disk, 3.7 arcseconds across.

In the two weeks after the Oct. 8 lunar eclipse, leading up to the solar eclipse:

Oct. 10-20: Good dates for daytime Moonwatch as first activity of school day.

Oct. 14-18 are the best dates for viewing lunar surface details through telescope and binoculars. When observing the Moon in the daytime through a telescope, use a single polarizing filter threaded into your low-power eyepiece to enhance contrast of Moon against the sky. While observing the Moon, rotate the eyepiece in its tube until the blue sky surrounding the Moon’s disk appears darkest. This works best when the Moon is within a day or two of Last Quarter or First Quarter phase.

Consider holding a predawn session in October. While we’re still on daylight saving time, starting your session 1-3/4 hours before sunrise wouldn’t be unreasonably early by the clock, and you’d get good looks at Jupiter and a preview of the stars of late winter.

Oct. 17 and 18, dawn: Look for Jupiter near the waning crescent Moon.

October’s second eclipse is a partial solar event in the afternoon on Thursday, October 23.

The times of the stages of a solar eclipse depends on your location. In California, this eclipse gets underway with first contact of the Moon’s disk at the edge of the Sun’s disk occurring just after 1:40 p.m. PDT in the northwest corner of the state, to 2:19 p.m. in the southeast corner. Deepest eclipse occurs at 3:06 p.m. in the northwest corner of California, to 3:36 p.m. in the southeast. Last contact, marking the end of the eclipse, occurs at 4:25 p.m. in the northwest corner of California, to 4:44 p.m. in the southeast.

Seen from Palm Springs, the solar eclipse begins at 2:12 p.m. PDT, as the Moon’s disk makes first contact with the upper right edge of the Sun’s disk. Greatest eclipse for Palm Springs occurs at 3:31 p.m. PDT, as the Moon’s disk covers the upper right portion of the Sun’s disk, the Moon covering 45 percent of the solar diameter, or 33 percent of the disk area. From Palm Springs, the eclipse ends at 4:41 p.m. PDT, as the Moon’s disk makes last contact with the upper left edge of the solar disk.

During the eclipse in Palm Springs, the Sun will be sinking through the southwestern sky, at an altitude ranging from 38° at the start of the event, to 15° at the end.

Follow these web links to obtain information on visibility of solar and lunar eclipses for any locality:

http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/JSEX/JSEX-index.html

http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/JLEX/JLEX-index.html

How to observe the solar eclipse (October 23)

Indirect viewing: A solar eclipse can be viewed indirectly, by looking at a projected image. Take a postcard or 3” x 5” index card, puncture a small pencil point hole in the center of the card, and allow the projected image of the Sun to fall on a second white card held 3 or 4 feet away, in the shadow of the first card. The diameter of the solar image will be just under one percent of the projection distance, and the size of the punctured hole should be small compared to that. You can improve the view by using a long cardboard box, cutting a large hole at one end, and covering that hole with the first index card with the small puncture hole. Tape a sheet of white paper inside the box at the opposite end, to serve as a screen.

You can also stand in the shade of a tree, and look for projected images of the eclipsed Sun, on the ground or on a white sheet you have spread on the ground, or on the side of a light-colored building. Try out this method at the same time of day as the eclipse will occur, on any day before the event, and notice the round projected images of the full disk of the Sun.

Direct viewing: Groups organizing a solar eclipse watch can also order a quantity of solar eclipse viewers for participants. Hand-held, safe eclipse viewers and eclipse glasses to be worn like regular eyeglasses are available from Rainbow Symphony. Both styles are identically priced and employ the same filter materials. The minimum quantity for those items is 25 count, at 85 cents each. There is a discount for quantity orders. For more information, and to order, go to www.rainbowsymphonystore.com and click on eclipse shades.

The viewers can be recycled for future eclipses! (They can also be used to check for sunspots; very large ones would be visible through the filter.)

In Palm Springs, the eclipse on Thursday, Oct. 23, begins at 2:12 p.m. PDT, as the moon’s disk makes first contact with the upper right edge of the sun’s disk. Greatest eclipse for Palm Springs occurs at 3:31 p.m., as the moon’s disk covers the upper right portion of the sun’s disk—45 percent of the solar diameter, or 33 percent of the disk area. The eclipse ends at 4:41 p.m., as the moon’s disk makes last contact with the upper left edge of the solar disk.

During the eclipse in Palm Springs, the sun will be sinking through the southwestern sky, at an altitude ranging from 38 degrees at the start of the event, to 15 degrees at the end.

In the days following the Oct. 23 solar eclipse:

Oct. 25, Two days after the solar eclipse, at dusk: Can you spot Saturn 4°-5° lower right of the thin young crescent Moon?

Oct. 26 at dusk: Look for Antares 8° lower left of Moon.

Oct. 27 and 28, at dusk: Find Mars near Moon.

On Nov. 3 and 11-12, at nightfall: Watch Mars pass close to stars in the Teapot of Sagittarius.

Use the following web links to obtain information on visibility of past, present, and future eclipses for any locality. Choose your city or enter your longitude and latitude. For times expressed in Pacific Daylight Time, choose Time Zone 7h 00m W. Next, for eclipses in the current century, choose Century 2001-2100, and subtract one hour from times for eclipses occurring on dates Pacific Standard Time is in effect.

Solar eclipses: http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/JSEX/JSEX-index.html

Lunar eclipses: http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/JLEX/JLEX-index.html

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.

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