Watch the moon turn red

Astronomy buffs will have an opportunity to view a lunar eclipse this evening from 8pm to midnight at York’s arboretum observing facility. Paul Delaney, professor of physics and astronomy in the Faculty of Science & Engineering, will be on hand to guide enthusiasts through the eclipse, including the stages of an eclipse and how it compares to other celestial phenomena. The event will take place on the southeast rooftop of the Arboretum Parking Garage (formerly known as Parking Structure II).

“A lunar eclipse is what we see when our planet blocks the sun’s light from the moon. In essence, the moon moves into the shadow of the earth, as a person would move into the shadow of a building,” explains Delaney. 

Right: A photograph of a lunar eclipse on May 5, 2004, taken by the European Space Agency

“For at least a period of an hour, you’ll see the moon, which is normally very bright, turn dark – it often fades to a coppery red or orange shade,” says Delaney. This colour change is caused by the longer wavelength of red light, which is able to reach the Earth’s surface even as the planet blocks all direct light coming from the sun.

Unlike solar eclipses, which can be extremely dangerous if viewed directly, lunar eclipses pose no threat to curious observers.

“The whole effect of a lunar eclipse is subtly beautiful and no more hazardous than looking up at the moon on any other night,” Delaney says.

No special equipment is needed, but the experience would be heightened by a pair of binoculars – which allow even an amateur to pick out craters on the moon’s surface. Would-be sky gazers need only heed one caution – the weather up on the rooftop can be chilly.

For further information, visit the York Observatory Web site or call ext. 77773.