Tellus Science Museum opens for lunar eclipse viewing Tuesday morning
by Marie Nesmith
Dec 16, 2010 | 2510 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tellus Science Museum Astronomy Program Manager David Dundee explains to the museum staff the differences between a lunar and solar eclipse. The observatory will be open Tuesday for the upcoming lunar eclipse from midnight to 5:30 a.m.  SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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For David Dundee, the Tellus Science Museum observatory's 20-inch telescope will be an ideal instrument to view Tuesday morning's lunar eclipse.

"You can actually watch the shadow creep across some of the craters and the seas of the moon. So you can see a lot more detail plus you can see the edge of the shadow is round because we live on a round planet. And also the edge of the shadow when you look at it carefully, like through a telescope, you can tell that it's fuzzy," said Dundee, astronomy program manager for Tellus. "It's not a sharp edge because the Earth is surrounded by an atmosphere and it makes the shadow of our planet kind of fuzzy.

"So you can actually, just with simple telescope observation, tell something about the shape of our planet and the fact that we have an atmosphere. The moon is beautiful through the main telescope and that's something people really enjoy seeing."

Tellus Science Museum will mark the lunar eclipse with a viewing event from midnight to 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday. Along with the looking through the observatory's telescope, other smaller telescopes will be located on the museum's grounds for visitors to view this astronomical event.

"It's a very unique event," Tellus Executive Director Jose Santamaria said. "It's not visible all over the world. It's only visible at certain points of the world and we're one of them. So it's a total eclipse right over Cartersville. It's during the holidays when kids are out of school, and we thought it would just be a very unique experience for our public."

Patrons also can experience the eclipse inside the heated walls of Tellus as its theater, planetarium, banquet rooms and Great Hall will be streaming the observatory's images along with Dundee's remarks. During the event, food and refreshments can be purchased in the Tellus Cafe.

"The lunar eclipse basically is when the moon enters the Earth's shadow," Dundee said. "Every full moon, the moon, the Earth and the sun are lined up but usually the moon misses the shadow of the Earth. It's either above or below it. Lunar eclipses typically happen about once or twice a year but you have to be in the right place to see them. So, for example, the next lunar eclipse is going to happen on June 15, [2011] but we can't see it here in Cartersville. The next total lunar eclipse visible here in Cartersville is April 15, 2014. So they're rare but they're not that rare. They happen.

"The nice thing about lunar eclipses is you don't need any special eye protection or things like that that you do with solar eclipses. They're safe to stare at, look at with telescopes. What we'll have set up here at the museum is not only will we have our observatory open and small telescopes out, but we'll also have a live image of the lunar eclipse from our big telescope [piped] into the museum so that people can defrost and watch it in comfort in our theater or banquet room or Great Hall. It will be [shown] throughout the museum."

While the museum's offerings will begin at midnight, it will be past 1 a.m. when the lunar eclipse will start to take shape.

"The first time somebody will notice a piece of the moon missing is when the moon enters the inner shadow of the Earth at 1:32 a.m. ... Then the moon will be totally eclipsed at 2:40 a.m. and from 2:40 to 3:53, the moon's totally eclipsed," Dundee said. "At that time the moon may turn a deep red color because the Earth's shadow is not black. Thanks to the fact that we have an atmosphere, the air of the Earth bends some of the sunlight around the Earth and into our shadow and the color of sunlight that bends the best or -- as we call it in science -- refracts the best is red, the longer wavelengths of light.

"So the Earth's shadow is filled with red light. Each lunar eclipse is a little bit different because the red light, the hue of how deep of a red it is depends on the weather around the planet that day. So it might be a deep red. It might be a light red. It kind of depends but it will turn a red color. Then at 3:53 the moon will begin to emerge from the shadow and go through its partial phases again and then the moon will be totally out of the inner shadow of the Earth at 5:01. And the observatory will be open from about midnight until 5 in the morning."

Encompassing 120,000 square feet at 100 Tellus Drive in Cartersville, Tellus is comprised of four main galleries -- The Weinman Mineral Gallery, The Fossil Gallery, Science in Motion and The Collins Family My Big Backyard -- a 120-seat digital planetarium and the observatory. Opened in January 2009, the museum was officially named a Smithsonian affiliate about one year ago and has attracted more than 300,000 visitors.

For more information about the museum and the lunar eclipse viewing, call 770-606-5700 or visit www.tellusmuseum.org. Admission to the event will be $12 for adults; $10 for individuals 65 and older; $8 for children ages 3 to 17 and students with ID; and free for museum members and active military personnel with ID.