Planetarium opens to the public for first lunar eclipse of 2000

Augustana College's John Deere Planetarium will present a free public program on Thursday, January 20, in conjunction with the first lunar eclipse of 2000.  The planetarium, located at 820 38th Street, will be open from 8:30 p.m. until 12:30 a.m., with indoor and outdoor programs in the planetarium and lecture hall, the Carl Gamble Observatory, and the building's grounds.

According to Dr. Lee Carkner, director of the John Deere Planetarium and assistant professor of physics at Augustana, a lunar eclipse occurs when the alignment of the Earth, Sun and Moon is such that the Earth blocks the sunlight that normally makes the Moon shine.  "During the eclipse, the Moon is slowly covered and then 

uncovered by the Earth’s shadow. The totally eclipsed Moon is an eerie and awe-inspiring faint red disk," says Carkner. 

With the aid of a telescope, the shadow’s progress can be observed across the Moon's craters, highlands, and the Maria, or dark portions of the Moon.  The eclipse is expected to begin at 9:01 p.m. and last until 12:25 a.m., with totality lasting from 10:04 p.m. to 11:22 p.m.  Carkner notes that this will be the last total lunar eclipse visible from the Midwest until 2003.

Dr. Carkner will be joined by retired planetarium director Dr. Mel Peterson and members of the Augustana College Physics Club in leading the programs.  In addition to the 14-inch reflector in the Gamble Observatory and an 8-inch telescope on the grounds, the planetarium will host a "tour" of the winter constellations, and a slide presentation will be offered in the John Deere Lecture Hall featuring images from the Apollo moon landings highlighting the history of the Moon, eclipses and lunar exploration.

Cold weather is expected and the observatory is unheated so please dress warmly.  In the event of cloudy sky conditions, the planetarium and slide presentations will still be offered.