College astronomers among viewers of lunar eclipse | CraigDailyPress.com

College astronomers among viewers of lunar eclipse

'Blood moon' to appear 3 more times in 2014, 2015

— Late Monday night and during the earliest hours of Tuesday, many people around the world cast their gaze skyward to see the spectacle of the full lunar eclipse, known as the “blood moon” because of a reddish appearance of the celestial body while in the shadow of Earth.

At a glance

The total lunar eclipse, known as the “blood moon” for its reddish appearance caused by the Earth's shadow, will appear again Oct. 8; April 4, 2015; and Sept. 28, 2015. Another tetrad such as this will not occur again until 2032.

The first of four occurrences scheduled to happen between now and fall 2015 was a talking point for the astronomy students of Colorado Northwestern Community College as they spent the night observing through telescopes on the Craig campus, a practice which has become more and more familiar to them in recent weeks.

Instructor Liz Johnson was able to add a course in the study of the night sky to the college's science department this semester, the first time the discipline has been offered in several years and one of many fields Johnson teaches in addition to biology, chemistry, geology and more.

The “blood moon” was a unique happening for students who joined in on the late-night experience, but the curriculum entails learning about much more in the vast universe.

"They have to be able to set up telescopes, find galaxies, find a nebula, know the constellations, all that," Johnson said.

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Johnson added that a project in grinding mirrors for telescopes is an important part of coursework to get the best results for scanning the heavens.

"It's the most precise instrument you have," she said.

Student Heidi Reiman has gotten used to having class sessions in the dark since taking up the subject. And although some outings have been chillier than she'd like, a night without cloud coverage can translate to an awe-inspiring glimpse of the cosmos.

"I always knew the basics, like the Big Dipper, Orion, but knowing all the constellations and being to navigate the skies has been kind of fun," Reiman said Monday night, anticipating the beginning of the event. "Getting to see the lunar eclipse on a night this clear is pretty cool."

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Education.

At a glance

The total lunar eclipse, known as the “blood moon” for its reddish appearance caused by the Earth’s shadow, will appear again Oct. 8; April 4, 2015; and Sept. 28, 2015. Another tetrad such as this will not occur again until 2032.