The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Jim White
What is in the Sky 

Lunar eclipse to highlight September

 


The highlight of summer’s last month will come on Sept. 27, when we have a total lunar eclipse. The eclipse will have already begun when the Moon rises, at about 6:55 p.m. Maximum eclipse will be at about 7:45 p.m., and the full phase will last until about 8:20 p.m. By 9:30 p.m., the eclipse will be finished.

The Moon will appear a bit bigger than normal, since it is at its perigee, the closest point to us in the lunar orbit. This is sometimes referred to as a “super moon.” It’ll be about 14 percent larger than average and since it will be low in the sky, near the horizon, it makes for great photos!

The Moon will also be reddish, due to the Earths’ atmosphere. Even though the Earth is blocking sunlight from reaching the Moon, some sunlight passing through our atmosphere is bent (refracted) so it illuminates the lunar surface. And, since our atmosphere scatters the shorter, blue wavelength light and allows longer wavelength, red light to pass through, the Moon appears red. Next chance is Jan. 31, 2018.

A great place to view the eclipse is the Goldendale Observatory. From atop Observatory Hill, you can watch the partially-eclipsed Moon rise on the horizon and learn about the heavens from Interpretive Specialist Troy Carpenter. If you’ve not visited the Observatory, this is a great time to do so.

September is a good month for stargazing. Saturn remains visible, very low in the southeastern sky. By the end of the month, Saturn will set at 9 p.m. Venus, Mars, and Jupiter have circled the Sun, and are now visible in early morning hours. Venus will be the very bright “morning star” in the east.

The constellation Pegasus is now high in the eastern sky. Pegasus is easily recognized by its “Great Square” of four prominent stars of similar brightness. Look to the left, from the left-most of the 4 stars, and you’ll make out a line of fairly bright stars, the constellation Andromeda. The “W” shape of the constellation Cassiopeia is above and to the left of Andromeda.

Join me at the Conboy National Wildlife Refuge in the evening of Sept. 5, the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, starting at 7:30 p.m. We will be able to see stars, star clusters, galaxies, and maybe the ringed planet Saturn, if it’s not too low in the southwest.

With a pair of binoculars, and a dark sky, there are a couple of interesting objects you can locate in this area. One is the Andromeda galaxy, our “neighbor”, at over 2 million light-years distant. Use the map with this article, and point your binoculars toward Andromeda. The galaxy will appear as a hazy patch of light. What you are seeing is the collective light from billions of stars in that galaxy! Now look to the left of Andromeda, just below Cassiopeia. Look for a hazy patch of light that you can see with the naked eye, and use the binoculars on it. You are seeing two open clusters of stars, known as the “double cluster”. They are very impressive in a telescope, and also are very nice with binoculars.

Speaking of telescopes, join me at the Conboy National Wildlife Refuge in the evening of Sept. 5, the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, starting at 7:30 p.m. I’ll talk about the upcoming eclipse, and we will be able to see stars, star clusters, galaxies, and maybe the ringed planet Saturn, if it’s not too low in the southwest. Bring binoculars, and a telescope if you have one. Location is the Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters, east of Glenwood and west of Trout Lake. Hope to see you there!

 

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