No Open Nights planned

Photo: Nearly Full Perigee (aka "supermoon") - November 13, 2016, 5:52 PM. Photo by James Guilford.

Due to issues with our observatory building, we have no planned public observing nights on our 2022 calendar at this time. Recent years have not been kind to our 1939 building, anticipated repair costs are high, and certain problems are interfering with basic operation.

For updates, check back here occasionally or follow us on Twitter (@StephensObs)

If you have specific questions, the fastest way to contact the observatory is via the email contact form you will find here: https://stephensobservatory.org/contact-us/

Midnight Total Lunar Eclipse May 15 – 16

On the night of May 15, the Moon enters Earth’s shadow, creating a total lunar eclipse, the first since May of 2021. The image below shows the changing appearance of the Moon as it travels into and out of Earth’s shadow, along with times at various stages.

The Moon moves right to left, passing through the penumbra and umbra, leaving in its wake an eclipse diagram with the times at various stages of the eclipse. NASA visualization by Ernie Wright.

The penumbra is the part of the Earth’s shadow where the Sun is only partially covered by Earth. The umbra, the deep central cone of Earth’s shadow, is where Sun is completely hidden. Though direct sunlight is blocked whilst in the umbra, Moon is illuminated by light refracted and filtered by Earth’s atmosphere, colored by all of the globe’s sunrises and sunsets.

The Moon’s appearance isn’t affected much by the penumbra but careful observers may note a change in the full Moon’s appearance. The real action begins when the Moon starts to disappear as it enters the umbra at about 10:28 p.m. EDT on the 15th. An hour later, entirely within the umbra, Moon is a copper, or red-orange color. Totality lasts for an hour and a half before the Moon begins to emerge from the central shadow. Throughout the eclipse, the Moon is found in the constellation Libra.

Shadows make an eclipse. This illustration shows how Earth casts a thin outer, and deep inner shadow that changes the Moon’s appearance during an eclipse. Credits: NASA / James Guilford

Although, for some, the midnight timing of the May total lunar eclipse is daunting, the good news is that North American watchers will be well-positioned to see the event in its entirety. Often, eclipses may be in progress as Moon rises or sets. For a visibility map, CLICK HERE.

Binoculars, small telescopes, or even your unaided eyes are all you need to enjoy viewing of this natural phenomenon. The one thing that may stand in our way is — you guessed it — the weather!

Stephens Memorial Observatory will not be open for this event.

November 19th “near-total” lunar eclipse

2007 Total Lunar Eclipse. Photo by James Guilford.
2007 Total Lunar Eclipse. The November 19, 2021 eclipse will look much like this at its maximum. Photo by James Guilford

Taking place in the early hours of Friday, November 19 is what we will call a near-total lunar eclipse. When the eclipse reaches its maximum extent, about 97 percent of Moon will be within Earth’s deep umbra shadow. Much of the lunar disk would appear darkly colored but coloration would lighten across Moon’s face until, along one edge,

We say “would appear” because in Hiram, at least, skies are expected to be cloudy and delivering snow rather than views of our Moon’s show! Still, there’s a chance there will be a break in the weather and it’s good to know about these things.

A total lunar eclipse takes place when Moon completely enters the deep umbra of Earth’s cone-shaped shadow in space. The lunar surface is lit only by light that has passed through Earth’s atmosphere, coloring it shades of copper and red. Illustration Credit: NASA / James Guilford

A total lunar eclipse takes place when Earth’s Moon entirely enters the umbra portion of the planet’s shadow. There, lit only by light scattered through Earth’s atmosphere, Moon glows in beautiful colors ranging from deep red to bright copper. Naturally, to ancient peoples, the sight of the Full Moon changing from bright white to blood red caused fear and panic. Today, lunar eclipses are favorite targets for photography, and observations by astronomers. The November 19 event won’t technically be a total lunar eclipse but still well worth seeing!

This image illustrates the passage of Moon through Earth’s shadow the morning of November 19, 2021. When Moon is outside of the shadow, it will be in its Full phase. Entering the thin outer shadow or penumbra, the lunar disk will begin dimming. As it reaches the umbra, pronounced darkening begins and Moon will no longer appear as full. Strongest coloration appears as Moon, or portions of it, move close to the center of the umbra. Image via Fred Espenak.

Timing of the the November 19 eclipse is shown below and is accurate for areas surrounding Akron, Ohio. Those reading this article can get a localized timing table by visiting TimeAndDate.com

Timing of the the November 19 eclipse is shown below and is accurate for areas surrounding Akron, Ohio. Credit: TimeAndDate.com

We began this piece mentioning the unfortunate weather. It appears conditions will be worse to the northeast of Hiram and potentially better to the west and we can thank Lake Effect precipitation for that. So get up and check the skies around 4:00 a.m., if you want to take a chance, or just stay snug in bed. Either way know that a beautiful natural phenomenon is underway high above, happening just as it should, just when it should.

Our next opportunity to see a lunar eclipse? May 15 – 16, 2022, and it will be a total lunar eclipse. Totality will occur around midnight. Let’s hope for better weather chances then!