Blood Moon Strikes Back! Total Lunar Eclipse Wednesday, October 8!

A total eclipse of the Moon will occur early Wednesday morning, October 8. Houstonians will be able to see virtually the whole event, which happens right before dawn.

Lunar eclipses occur when the full Moon moves into the Earth’s shadow. The first part of the Earth’s shadow that the Moon will encounter is the penumbra. The penumbral shadow’s faintness means that sharp-eyed observers will notice only a slight dimming of the Moon between 3:14 AM and 4:15 AM. The Moon moves into the darkest part of the earth’s shadow, the umbra, at 4:15 AM, and will be totally eclipsed by 5:24 AM. Totality lasts until 6:25, at which time the Moon has crossed the shadow and begun emerging from the other side. The Moon is still emerging from the shadow (and thus still partially eclipsed) as it sets at 7:26.  Note that this eclipse happens close to dawn, which is when a Full Moon is about to set. Therefore, you’ll need an observing site clear of obstacles to the west so you can watch the setting Moon in eclipse.  (That’s why we’re not observing from George Observatory, as we have in the past. Our tree line would interfere with the view).

Eclipse Diagram - James Wooten

The Moon’s brightness during a total eclipse depends on the amount of dust particles in the atmosphere. A large amount of dust from a volcanic eruption, for example, can make the totally eclipsed Moon almost invisible. With little dust in our atmosphere, the Moon glows reddish-orange during totality. This is because only the Sun’s red light comes through the Earth’s atmosphere and falls on the Moon even while it is in the Earth’s shadow. As the diagram shows, the Moon will pass through the northern part of the shadow, for about an hour of totality. As a result, the southern limb, closer to the center of Earth’s shadow, will appear darker.  And since we’ll be watching the Moon set in the west, the northern limb will be to the right and the southern limb to the left.

This is the second of four consecutive total lunar eclipses in 2014 and 2015, all of which are visible in the USA.  We’ll see our next total lunar eclipse in Houston just before dawn on April 4, 2015.

 

This week @HMNS: Making physics cool and celebrating 25 years at the George

This series is about events happening at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. For more information about HMNS, our exhibits and programming, please visit HMNS.org.

 

THURSDAY, OCT. 9
FILM SCREENING: Particle Fever 
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Imagine being able to watch Franklin received his first jolt of electricity or Edison turn on the first light bulb!

Particle Fever gives you a front row seat to our generation’s most significant and inspiring scientific breakthrough as it happens the launch of the Large Hadron Collider, the biggest and most expensive experiment in the history of the planet. 10,000 scientists from over 100 countries join forces in pursuit of a single goal: to recreate conditions that existed just moments after the Big Bang and find the Higgs boson, potentially explaining the origin of all matter. 

Join Dr. Paul Padley, one of the Rice University professors who worked on the Higgs boson discovery on the Hadron Collider, for this one-night-only event.

 

FRIDAY, OCT. 10
MEMBERS EVENT: The George Observatory 25th Anniversary Celebration
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Celebrate the George Observatory’s 25th anniversary and peer through the refurbished research telescope to see spectacular views of Saturn along with a variety of deep space objects. Cash bar and light refreshments.

 

 

We’ve Got the Fever: Particle Fever screening one night only at HMNS! (10/9/14)

Next week we’re bringing you the chance to glimpse back in time to the very beginning of the universe with the critically acclaimed documentary Particle Fever screening Thursday, October 9 in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre at 6:00 p.m.

“Wait a second,” you might say, “how can this documentary show us the beginning of the universe? I’m pretty sure cameras came along much later.”

Well what if I told you that scientists have built a machine capable of re-creating the conditions of that very, very, very, very hot, small, energetic place that would eventually come to be the universe as we know it.

Along the way these scientists also invented a handy little thing called the internet (sorry, Al Gore). You might’ve heard of it… No? Google it.

These are the scientists at CERN in Switzerland and over the past several decades they’ve designed and built the Large Hardron Collider, which is the biggest machine ever made. 

“The large whaaaaaa?”

It’s basically a 5 story tall, 27 kilometer long tunnel, lined with computers, 100 meters underground capable of making particles collide with one another at extremely fast speeds so they break up into their fundamental pieces. This can give us a better idea of why the universe looks and behaves the way it does. 

In this exciting, fast-paced documentary we get a front-row seat to the frontier of scientific discovery. We watch as scientists’ entire careers hang in the balance, waiting to see what will come out of these experiments. Told through interviews and stunning animation, in a very “approachable-and-interesting-even-if-you-failed-high-school-physics” way, this film will inspire you, much like the scientists it features, to seek out every answer you can about the “everything there is” — the universe.

Don’t miss out!

Particle Fever, showing October 9 in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre at 6:00 p.m.

 

Watch the video below for a fantastic intro to the experiments at CERN:

 

This video delves a little further into just why these scientists are so bent on discovering new particles:

Film Screening
Particle Fever Film Screening
Thursday, October 9, 6 p.m.

Join Hadron Collider researcher Dr. Paul Padley of Rice University for this one-night-only screening of the film Particle Fever at HMNS. Click here for tickets.

Seeing Stars with James Wooten: Two eclipses for the price of one!

Star Chart - October 2014

This star map shows the Houston sky at 10 pm CDT on September 1, 9 pm CDT on September 15, and dusk on September 30. To use the map, put the direction you are facing at the bottom. The Summer Triangle is high in the west. This consists of the brightest stars in Cygnus, Lyra, and Aquila. The ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius sets in the southwest, with Mars to its right. Pegasus, the Flying Horse, is high in the east. To the south and east, we see a vast dim area of stars known as the Celestial Sea, where only Fomalhaut stands out.

This month, Mars remains in the southwest at dusk this month as it pulls away from Antares in Scorpius. Mars continues to fade a little each night as Earth continues to leave it farther behind

Saturn drops into the Sun’s glare by Halloween. See how long you can keep track of it as it appears lower and lower to the southwest horizon each night this month.

Jupiter is now higher in the east at dawn; it is the brightest thing there. 

Venus is passing behind the Sun and thus out of sight this month. Superior conjunction (Venus in line with the Sun, on the far side of the Sun) is on October 25.

In October the Big Dipper is to the lower left of the North Star at dusk, and soon sets. As a result, it may be hard to see if you have trees or buildings north of you. As the Big Dipper sets, though, Cassiopeia rises. This is a pattern of five stars in a distinct W shape which lies directly across the North Star from the Big Dipper. Look for Cassiopeia high in the north on fall and winter evenings.  

Autumn represents sort of an ‘intermission’ in the sky, with bright summer stars setting at dusk, while bright winter stars such as Orion have not yet risen.  The ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius sets in the southwest early in the evening. The Summer Triangle is high in the west. Meanwhile, the Great Square of Pegasus is in the east, indicating that autumn has begun. The stars rising in the east are much dimmer than those overhead and in the southwest because when you face east at dusk in October, you face out of the Milky Way plane. The center of our Galaxy lies between Scorpius and Sagittarius, while the Summer Triangle is also in the galactic plane. Pegasus, on the other hand, is outside the plane of our galaxy and is a good place to look for other galaxies. Nearby constellations Andromeda and Triangulum (a small triangle) contain the spiral galaxies nearest to our own. 

Total Lunar Eclipse October 8 + Partial Solar Eclipse October 23!
The Full Moon of October 8 enters Earth’s shadow completely, causing a total lunar eclipse!  Partial eclipse begins at 4:15 am, with totality from 5:24 to 6:25 am. The Moon then begins to leave the shadow, but is still partially eclipsed as it sets at 7:26 in Houston. This is the second of four total eclipses we can see in 2014-15; the next one occurs April 4, 2015.

The New Moon of October 23 partially blocks the Sun, causing a partial solar eclipse!  For us, the eclipse begins at 5:00 and is still in progress at sunset (6:43 pm). For both eclipses you’ll need a site with a clear view to the west to watch the setting Moon or Sun in eclipse. 

Moon Phases in October 2014:
First Quarter: October 1, 2:32 pm; October 30, 9:48 pm
Full: October 8, 5:50 am
Last Quarter: October 15, 2:12 pm
New: October 23, 4:55 pm 

Celebrate The George October 10-12!
The George Observatory celebrates its 25th anniversary the weekend of October 10-12!  That weekend, the observatory is open for a members event on Friday evening and Sunday night in addition to our customary Saturday night hours

Click here for the Burke Baker Planetarium Schedule.

On most clear Saturday nights at the George Observatory, you can hear me do live star tours on the observation deck with a green laser pointer.  If you’re there, listen for my announcement.