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The Webfooted Astronomer - January 2000


A Really Great Lunar Eclipse

By Pat Lewis

On Thursday, January 20, 2000—weather permitting, of course—we will have the opportunity to see a nearly central total eclipse of the Moon. The event will occur at an ideal time for watchers in the Pacific Northwest. First contact is at about 6:30 p.m., with totality beginning just after 8 p.m. and lasting an hour and a quarter. We are told that the aerosols from Pinatubo and other volcanoes are cleared from the stratosphere now, so this eclipse should be the first "normal" one (in terms of brightness and color) in nearly 10 years.

The Moon will be only 7 degrees west of the Beehive Cluster, M 44, during totality. Before and after the eclipse the Moon’s brightness will make the cluster invisible, but during totality it should be easy to see with naked eye. Several faint stars will be occulted, including VV Cancri, an irregular red variable. If you make careful timings of these events, Sky & Telescope would like to receive your report; refer to the article in the January issue on page 109. Astronomy magazine also has an article in the December issue by Phil Harrington, specifically on how to photograph the eclipse.

As we all know, winter weather in our area is often cloudy. However, sometimes in January or February a cold front comes down bringing temperatures of 20 degrees or so under sparkling clear skies. Check out your winter woollies and keep hoping! But if we miss this one, don’t despair. On July 16, 2000, there will be another almost-central total lunar eclipse visible from our area, with clear skies a high probability. See you there!

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