‘Tuesday, Bloody Tuesday’

Robinson Observatory allows students to get a glimpse of the eclipse

Join fellow stargazers on Memory Mall at the UCF campus, Tuesday, to see the the blood moon as it makes an appearance during the lunar eclipse.

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Every year there are two solar and two lunar eclipses, but on April 15, the moon will shine bright through the glow of the Earth’s atmosphere during sunrise. This will be viewable with the naked eye, or through one of the four telescopes provided by the Robinson Observatory.

The observatory was named after Herbert O. Robinson, a University of Central Florida founder and a benefactor of the school and the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. Robinson donated $125,000 to build the observatory and to refurbish the Cassegrain telescope.

The lunar eclipse won’t be the only interstellar phenomena to take place on Tuesday. Mars and Saturn will also be visible during the eclipse.

“You don’t get many opportunities to see something like this,” James Hanley, senior political science major said. “You might as well go.”

Lunar eclipses are not as rare as solar eclipses, Joshua Colwell, professor of physics, said.

“The Earth is bigger than the moon, so it’s easier for the Earth’s shadow to fall over the moon. That’s why lunar eclipses are more common,” Colwell said.

There is a scientific reason as why the sky will take on a reddish hue; it has everything to do with the pollution of the atmosphere.

The previous lunar eclipse occurred in 2011. Colwell said every lunar eclipse will result in what is called, a “blood moon,” and it is not such a rare sight.

“The moon doesn’t have an atmosphere, so when we look at it during a solar eclipse, the sky is still dark blue,” Colwell said. “And we’re typically viewing it at night. When we look at the sky during the lunar eclipse it will be around the time of the sunrise, so we’ll look through the atmosphere like a lens and the moon will take on that reddish color.”

Students can view the total lunar eclipse tomorrow at the Robinson Observatory, which features the 20-inch f/8.2 RCOS Ritchey-Chretien telescope as their primary tool for gazing at the night sky. This specialized Cassegrain telescope will make it seem as though the moon, 238,900 miles away, is within arm’s reach.

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The telescope will be set up around midnight on the lawn of Memory Mall for stargazers to come and observe the lunar eclipse and will remain until the end of the eclipse, which last about 77 minutes, according to Tech Times.

“I had a Dobson-mounted Newtonian reflector, with an 8-inch diameter,” Miles O’Keefe, senior literature and philosophy major said. “But 3 a.m. is pretty late/early. I don’t know if I’ll make it out.”

The Robinson Observatory was open from 9-10:30 p.m., allowing students to participate in its weekly “Knights under the Stars” event, but the final official night of observation for the spring 2014 semester was April 10. Now, students will be able to access the telescope during the wee hours of the morning, Tuesday for a special day-time observation of the “bloody lunar eclipse.”

This won’t be the only occurrence this year, UCF Today predicts. There will be four more blood-red eclipses schedule every six months, starting in April 2014 and ending in September 2015, writer Alexander Saltarin said.

The viewing of the lunar eclipse is a free event, open to the public, as long as weather permits.

Visit the Robinson Observatory’s Facebook page for more information and to make sure the event is not cancelled due to predicted rainstorms; the Weather Channel predicts heavy rain and a slight chance of thunderstorms on the day of the eclipse.

 Published in print and online in the Central Florida Future.

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