CARBONDALE — The entire community can witness a rare celestial event in a special way later this month, with the help of experts at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
A total lunar eclipse will happen the night of Sept. 27, when a so-called “blood moon” will inhabit the skies over Saluki Stadium. Throughout the evening, members of the Astronomical Association of Southern Illinois, the SIU physics department and the Saluki Astronomy Association will provide several telescopes on the field to assist in observing the fine details of the moon's surface. A few of the telescopes will have cell phone camera adapters to allow observers to capture a detailed image of the moon.
The event is free and open to the SIU campus community and the public.
Participants also can view additional celestial objects, including the Ring Nebula and Saturn, which is only visible early in the evening. Additional activities for the evening include hands-on science demonstrations by the Science Center and the Society of Physics Students.
The stadium will open at 7:30 p.m. and university officials said viewers will see all phases of this lunar eclipse, with the partial phase starting just after moon rise at 8:07 p.m.
The full eclipse phase, known as a "Blood Moon," will begin at 9:11 p.m. This phase of the eclipse will remain in full effect until 10:23 p.m. The moon will then go through a second partial phase eclipse, ending at 11:27 p.m.
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Bob Baer, a specialist staff member in the Department of Physics, said the university is rolling out the red carpet to those interested in viewing the event and learning more about the science behind it.
“Events like this serve the public and are a great opportunity for us to do some community building,” Baer said. “In addition, these events draw in a lot of youth from the area who may be exposed to the university or astronomy and science for the first time. It can spark an interest in science that often will become a life-long fascination.”
But more than just nature will be on display during the event. Beginning at 8 p.m., organizers will show “Apollo 13,” followed by "Chasing Pluto."
Participants should bring lawn chairs and blankets if desired and enjoy a free evening of family friendly entertainment at the stadium. Concessions also will be available.
A special Lunar Eclipse event for alumni and friends of the College of Science will be held the same night in Saluki Stadium and will include refreshments, guest speakers, and VIP viewing of the eclipse from the stadium roof. Cost is $30 per person. To buy tickets online, visit http://siuf.org/events/lunareclipsefall15/ or call the SIU Foundation at 618-453-4900. For more information, email Baer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Scott Ishman at email@example.com.
On Aug. 21, 2017, SIU will be the closest university to the point of longest duration of a total solar eclipse -- an event expected to bring thousands of enthusiasts to the area. The university is busily preparing for that as it will provide ample research and community outreach opportunities, said Laurie Achenbach, dean of the College of Science.
"The lunar eclipse is a great opportunity to draw people to SIU to enjoy family friendly activities and to meet others with an interest in astronomy,” she said. “This is also a great time for us to highlight the facilities we have on campus for the big solar eclipse event in 2017 and to showcase SIU and the Carbondale region as the Eclipse Crossroads.”
Tim Crosby writes for University Communications.