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Tellus to host lunar eclipse viewing Sunday

There’s a total lunar eclipse set to occur Sunday, and Tellus Science Museum will open its doors to guests to view the phenomenon as it happens.

The museum, located at 100 Tellus Drive, will allow guests inside past normal hours to see the eclipse from its observatory. Billed as a “supermoon eclipse,” it will mark the first time since 1982 that such an eclipse has occurred, according to https://www.nasa.gov/. Tellus astronomer David Dundee said this simply means the moon is closer to the Earth than usual.

“The moon’s orbit is an oval, so sometimes it’s closer to the Earth than [other times]. And when the moon makes its closest approach to the Earth at the time of full moon, NASA’s decided to call it a ‘supermoon,’” explained Dundee, noting observers could expect to see a moon that appears to be about 6 percent larger in size.

Dundee said there are a few things to look for during the eclipse.

“As the eclipse begins ... you’ll notice that it looks like the Cookie Monster’s attacking the moon,” he pointed out. “[It] looks like a bite has been taken out of the moon. And that’s the Earth’s shadow going across the moon. You will notice the shadow will look kind of round because we live on a round planet. And also the fact that it will look fuzzy. And the edge of the shadow will not be sharp because we have an atmosphere. Now, when we get to total eclipse, the moon will turn kind of an orange or a reddish color. And that’s because the Earth has an atmosphere, and the light of the sun, even though it’s blocked directly by the Earth itself, [the Earth’s atmosphere] will bend the light of the sun around the planet, [which] causes a refraction.”

Dundee also said this will be the last “good” eclipse until January 2019. One will occur in January 2018, but that one will only last for a few minutes. The eclipse on Sunday will begin at 9:06 p.m.; the moon will be fully eclipsed by 10:10 p.m.; the moon will begin to move out of Earth’s shadow at 11:23 p.m.; and by 12:27 a.m., the eclipse will be finished.

Tellus will be open from about 9 p.m. until a little after midnight, Dundee said. If there are too many clouds to get a sufficient glimpse of the moon, the museum will attempt to stream a live feed of the eclipse from another location. As of about 5:30 p.m. Thursday, the National Weather Service had predicted a 20 percent chance of rain Sunday night for the 30120 ZIP code area.

In contrast to a solar eclipse, looking directly at a lunar eclipse does no harm to observers. In fact, as Noah Petro, deputy project scientist for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a press release, the only risk “is that people will wake up the next morning with neck pain because they spent the night looking up.”

NASA said the eclipse will be visible in North and South America, Europe, Africa and parts of West Asia and the eastern Pacific.

Admission to Tellus for the viewing event will be free to members and standard admission price for all others. For more information, visit http://tellusmuseum.org/ or call the museum at 770-606-5700.