Special Event – The Total Eclipse of the Moon!
A festive atmosphere dominated on Wednesday evening, February 20, 2008, as more than a hundred students, faculty, staff, and guests gathered at the Manfred Olson Planetarium on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus to view a total lunar eclipse and to learn about other bodies visible in the heavens, including Saturn, Mars, and several of the sky's brightest stars.
The night air was clear and calm, and despite sub-zero temperatures, a large crowd gathered for the celestial event, observing with naked eyes as well as through an assortment of telescopes and binoculars provided by the planetarium. Guests were also treated to a multimedia presentation inside the planetarium theater. The presentation was delivered four times by Planetarium Director Jean Creighton, due to high demand.
The lunar eclipse took place between 7:43 and 11:09 PM CST, rising through the southeastern sky in the constellation of Leo, the Lion. The Moon darkened and reddened as it passed through Earth's umbra, a region within Earth's shadow where the only sunlight present has been filtered and bent by optical properties of Earth's atmosphere.
Saturn was also visible in Leo, just a few degrees north of the Moon. Observers gathered eagerly to view the sixth planet through telescopes, offering gasps and delighted exclamations at the sight of its beautiful rings.
Observers also learned to identify Mars, which was visible high overhead in Taurus, and to identify the brightest stars in the constellations of Orion, Taurus, Auriga, Gemini, Canis Major, Canis Minor, and Leo.
The last total lunar eclipse was on August 28, 2007, visible from Milwaukee between 1:51 and 5:24 AM CST. The Manfred Olson Planetarium also hosted a sky watching event on that morning, which drew dozens of spectators despite the early hour.
The Manfred Olson Planetarium is operated by the Physics Department at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Information about its program offerings is available on the Public Programs and School Groups pages. Special thanks go to all of the graduate and undergraduate students who volunteered their time to help make this event a success.