Clouds, rain don’t eclipse the eclipse for some Pittsburghers
September 28, 2015 8:30 AM
Michael Heiman/Getty Images
An eclipsed supermoon is shown Sunday in New York City. A supermoon occurs when a full moon coincides with its perigee, which is its closest approach to the Earth. A total lunar eclipse and a supermoon won't occur together again until 2033.
Daniel Roland/AFP/Getty Images
A combination of 12 pictures shows a total lunar eclipse in Gaiberg near Heidelberg, southwestern Germany, early today. Skygazers were treated to a rare astronomical event when a swollen "supermoon" and lunar eclipse combined for the first time in decades, showing Earth's satellite bathed in blood-red light.
A lunar eclipse coincides with a so-called "supermoon" as seen from St. Florence, Tenby, Wales early today. A supermoon occurs when the Moon is in the closest part of its orbit to Earth, meaning it appears larger in the sky.
Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP
The Earth's shadow obscures the view of the so-called supermoon during a lunar eclipse as steam near oil refineries rises in Edmonton, Alberta, Sunday.
By Jasper Wilson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Early on during the Buhl Planetarium’s SkyWatch for Sunday’s total lunar eclipse, a full moon hid behind clouds as rain drizzled down, keeping many of the attendees gathered behind the Carnegie Science Center in suspense.
But, almost in sync with the start of the moon’s first contact with the earth’s umbral (inner) shadow at 9:07 p.m., a small, circular hole in the skies began to part, revealing a full, white moon above the city skyline. Cheers erupted around the open-air patio on the banks of the Ohio River. Perhaps Pittsburghers — including the 110 at the planetarium — would get to see the last of four lunar eclipses in the last two years, a rare occurrence, after all.
Michelle Rogers, 37, of Murrysville came to the event with her two young children, undeterred by the rain and overcast weather that had loomed over Pittsburgh and the surrounding area for much of the evening.
“We wanted to see it,” Ms. Rogers said. “We think it might be a special event.”
Even as the poor weather continued, the clouds sometimes eclipsing the eclipse, Ms. Rogers remained hopeful.
“I was kind of bummed when I thought that we might not be able to see it,” she said. “[But] I really just feel like the clouds are going to open up when we’re suppose to see it.”
Mitchell Dubin, 13, of Squirrel Hill had talked about the eclipse with relatives for the past week since hearing about it on the news. He said the length of time before the next supermoon total lunar eclipse, 2033, played a big part in convincing him to come.
“Why not? I’m interested in what’s going on,” Mitchell said. “A big thing is happening...I wanted to see it.”
After the moon made an appearance at the start of its clear visibility period, it shrank slowly during the two-hour cycle, its decreasing sliver visible through the clouds..
“I was kind of frustrated ‘cause I was excited all day. We were making a plan this morning to come down here,” Mitchell said. ”Then it was cloudy. Then it started raining, and I was really disappointed, but then I look out and see a glow, I know it’s cheesy, There was a glow in the trees. and I thought, ‘Why not? maybe I’ll see something.’” And then he did.
A total lunar eclipse happens during a full moon when the entire moon passes through the earth’s umbral, or inner shadow. The moon can take on a variety of colors, commonly orange and red, during a total eclipse, depending on how much dust and clouds are present in the atmosphere, said Dan Malerbo, education and program coordinator at the Carnegie Science Center’s Buhl Planetarium and Observatory.
On Sunday, the moon became dark, a transformation Mr. Malerbo, who has worked at the Planetarium for almost 29 years, called unusual.
People almost didn’t get to witness that special evolution at the Science Center. According to Malerbo, a SkyWatch cancellation would’ve occurred due to the inclement viewing conditions, had Sunday not been such a rare circumstance. In addition to being a total supermoon eclipse, this moon was a Harvest moon, the moon closest to the autumnal equinox, which took place on Sept. 23. Harvest moons rise quicker than the moons in the preceding days.
Sunday night was the last chance until 2018 to see a total lunar eclipse and until 2033 to see a so-called supermoon eclipse. Supermoons occur when the planet moves the closest to earth that its elliptical orbit allows, which in this case was 31 thousands miles closer to the earth than normal, making it appear both larger, by approximately 14 percent, and brighter, by about 30 percent.
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