Hiding the moon: the total eclipse of Feb. 20

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The moon will enter the Earth’s shadow, an event called a lunar eclipse, on the evening of Wednesday, February 20, and Rowan University is ready to give visitors a great view. 

The moon will enter the Earth's shadow, an event called a lunar eclipse, on the evening of Wednesday, February 20, and Rowan University is ready to give visitors a great view.  

The Edelman Planetarium and the Department of Physics and Astronomy will co-host a free public observing session that night at the Rowan campus from 8 to 11 p.m.

Starting at 8 p.m., experts will be on hand to answer questions and operate telescopes on the roof of Rowan's Science Hall to view the moon, Mars and Saturn.  A free short planetarium program will be given at the same time to familiarize people with the evening sky.

Lunar eclipses occur when the moon's orbit carries it into the long shadow cast by Earth. The moon does not turn completely black - a small amount of sunlight is refracted inward by the Earth's atmosphere to land on the lunar surface even during a total eclipse.

The totally eclipsed moon can vary from dark brick red to bright orange, depending mostly on weather and the amount of dust floating in the air. Since there haven't been any recent large volcanic eruptions, experts are predicting the eclipsed moon should look relatively bright and colorful during the February event.

The partial eclipse will begin at 8:43 p.m., the total eclipse will last from 10:01 to 10:51 p.m., and the partial eclipse will end at 12:09 a.m.  There also will be two periods before and after the partial eclipse when the moon will still be in the penumbra, the much lighter outer shadow of the Earth, though this will be difficult to see.

Amateur astronomers can also watch the eclipse at home with unassisted vision, binoculars, or a telescope. Each method displays the event in a different way.

If weather conditions make it impossible to view the sky, the Rowan observing session will not take place, but the planetarium show will be held. For further information, visit www.rowan.edu/planetarium.

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