Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

April 11, 2014

Lunar eclipse Tuesday

Staff report
The Independent

PRESTONSBURG — The East Kentucky Science Center and Planetarium, in conjunction with Big Sandy Community and Technical College Physics/Astronomy instructor Garrison Turner, will host a lunar eclipse observing from 1:30 to 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

 Located on the Prestonsburg campus of BSCTC, the Science Center will have telescopes set up for observation and have short programs about the night sky and eclipses in the planetarium. An added attraction will be the planet Mars sitting next to the moon during the eclipse.

The moon will be eclipsed by Earth's shadow. This total lunar eclipse will be visible across the Western Hemisphere. The total phase will last 78 minutes, beginning at 3:06 a.m. EDT and ending at 4:24 a.m.

The moon will be rising in the western Pacific, and so only the last half of the eclipse will be visible there. In much of Europe and Africa, the moon will be setting, so there won't be much, if anything, to see.

Even though the moon is in the Earth’s shadow, it should appear a bit colorful, some shade of red or orange. That’s from light around the edges of the Earth — essentially sunrises and sunsets — splashing on the lunar surface and faintly lighting up the moon, said Alan MacRobert, senior editor at Sky & Telescope magazine.

In all, four eclipses will occur this year, two lunar and two solar.

Tuesday’s lunar eclipse may damage a NASA spacecraft that's been circling the moon since fall. But no worries: it’s near the end of its mission.

The robotic orbiter LADEE was never designed to endure a lengthy eclipse. Scientists don't know if it will withstand the prolonged cold of the hours-long eclipse.

Even if it freezes up, LADEE will crash into the far side of the moon the following week as planned, after successfully completing its science mission.

In an online contest, NASA is asking the public to guess the impact time. Scientists expect LADEE’s doomsday to occur on or before April 21.

LADEE stands for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer. The science-collecting portion of the mission went into overtime at the beginning of March.

The eclipse of the moon can only take place during a full moon, and if the moon passes through some portion of the earth’s shadow.  The shadow is actually composed of two cone-shaped parts, one nested inside the other. The outer shadow, or penumbra, is a zone where Earth blocks some (but not all) of the sun’s rays. In contrast, the inner shadow or umbra is a region where Earth blocks all direct sunlight from reaching the moon.

 The event in Prestonsburg is free and weather permitting. For more information, contact Steve Russo at (606) 889-4809 or email srusso0002@kctcs.edu.