Lunar Eclipse — November 19, 2021

by Robert Vanderbei

I’m teaching a Freshman Seminar this fall called Sizing Up The Universe. There are 12 students in the class. A few weeks before the eclipse, I told my students that the eclipse was an upcoming event and I asked them if they would like to do an eclipse observing event at Poe Field here on the campus of
Princeton University.

Of course, right at the start of the conversation I told them that the time of near totality would be at about 4am and therefore that I’d arrive at Poe Field at about 3am and probably leave at about 4:20am. I also told them that I’d be taking astro-photographs with my 3.5″ Questar telescope and a DSLR camera and that therefore it wouldn’t be practical to show them the eclipse visually through my telescope. But, they would be able to see the photos in real time as they downloaded from my camera to my laptop computer. I also told them that I’d bring binoculars that they could use to see the eclipse up close.

Virtually all of the students enthusiastically expressed that they would like to attend such an event and that they would set their alarm clocks and show up about 30 minutes before 4am. So, that was the plan. But, over the course of a few days leading up to the event it looked like the weather was not going to be good. Rain was forecast starting about midnight and ending sometime close to morning. So, we were all expecting that the event would be cancelled. But, as we got closer to the night of the event, the forecast seemed to slowly look better and better. It was still forecast to rain but the rain was forecasted to stop by about 1am. So, we didn’t cancel the event.

It did rain and the rain did stop some hours before the event. As planned, I showed up to Poe Field at about 3am. The sky was perfectly clear. The first few students to show up arrived only minutes after I did. At 4am there were about 10 students from my class and some of them brought some friends making the total number up around 15. They had a lot of fun looking at the eclipse through the binoculars. They also were very excited to see that the eclipse wasn’t very far from the Pleiades star cluster. And, they liked seeing the pics that I was taking through my Questar.

Here’s the webpage I made showing some of the pictures I got…

The next lunar eclipse will start a bit before midnight on May 15 and will end a few hours after midnight. I’ve marked my calendar for that one.

This entry was posted in December 2021, Sidereal Times and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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