The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Troy J Carpenter
For The Sentinel 

Eclipse brings surge of visitors to Goldendale Observatory


Contributed by the Goldendale Observatory

The crowd at the Goldendale Observatory is focused on the horizon.

In what could be called an elegant capper of the spring-summer parks season, visitors to Goldendale Observatory were treated to an unlikely confluence of lunar phenomena on Sunday evening.

The Sept. 27 lunar eclipse was the final installment in a “tetrad,” a series of four lunar eclipses over a period of roughly two years, each separated by about six months of time. The next total lunar eclipse will not be seen until January 2018. The next tetrad will not begin until April 2032.

The event was simultaneously an eclipse and “supermoon,” the unofficial term for a full moon that occurs during lunar perigee—that is to say, the point in the moon’s orbit closest to Earth. This proximity of the moon to Earth happened to result in an unusually dark eclipse, as the moon was more deeply shrouded in the midst of Earth’s giant shadow. The next supermoon eclipse will not be seen until October 2033.

This particular moon was also a “Harvest Moon,” the full moon falling on calendar date nearest to the autumnal equinox.

Finally, for sky watchers in the Pacific Time zone, the moon rose around 6:55 p.m., well after the eclipse had already begun. The crowd of nearly 275 individuals at the Observatory expressed amazement when the thin sliver of an almost entirely eclipsed moon appeared on the eastern horizon. Totality occurred only a few minutes later at 7:11 p.m. and reached maximum darkness around 7:47 p.m. Totality ended after 8:20 p.m., and the eclipse was over by 10:22 p.m.

Contributed by Darryl Lloyd

The eclipse over the Columbia.

The impressive turnout proved lucrative for Goldendale Observatory State Park: almost $900 in store merchandise and Discover Passes were sold in less than four hours. Critically important traffic and parking management was generously provided by Adam Fahlenkamp of Brooks Memorial State Park.

Truly, this rare natural event was a rousing success and much fun was had by all.

The attached image was taken with the Goldendale 6” f/15 refractor at 8:31 p.m., less than 10 minutes after the end of totality. The subtle curvature of Earth’s shadow, and thusly the size of our planet, may be inferred.

Troy Carpenter is the interpretive specialist at the Goldendale Observatory State Park. 


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