A&M-Commerce Observatory holds lunar eclipse viewing

Todd Kleiboer, Co-Editor

The “super blood wolf moon,” or lunar eclipse, reached totality at 10:41 p.m. CST. Photo Courtesy | A&M-Commerce Observatory

By Todd Kleiboer | Co-Editor

Well over 100 people gathered at the A&M-Commerce Observatory and withstood the cold to witness a total lunar eclipse, or “super blood wolf moon”, Jan. 20.

“The turnout was a lot more than we expected,” Dr. Kurtis Williams, astronomy professor and attendee, said. “We thought the cold weather would keep many people away, but it didn’t.”

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon moves into Earth’s shadow, blocking the sunlight that normally lights up its surface. Any light reaching the Earth’s atmosphere would then be scattered, but red light manages to break through, creating a lunar eclipse’s signature reddish color.

“As light from the Sun goes through Earth’s atmosphere, it gets bent, and red light has the easiest time going through Earth’s atmosphere,” Dr. Williams said. “If you were on the Moon looking back at the Earth during an eclipse, you’d be seeing every single sunrise and sunset at the same time, and since sunrise and sunset have an orange light, that colors the Moon orange.”

Telescopes and binoculars set up around the observatory allowed attendees to get a closer look at the “super blood wolf moon”, the unofficial name given to it by the public. The “blood” part comes from the red tinge.

“This moon is sometimes referred to as a ‘super moon’ because as the Moon goes around the Earth, sometimes it’s slightly closer to Earth, sometimes slightly further away, and when it’s slightly closer, it looks larger,” Dr. Williams said, and he noted that the size difference is not significant.

“Every moon during a calendar year has names assigned by ancient people or other cultures, and the first full moon of the year in some stories – I’m not sure which culture – is called the wolf moon,” Dr. Williams said.

While this lunar eclipse may have a first for some, that was the case for every attendee. Chase Miller, a TAMUC student, said even though this was not his first time observing an eclipse, it was his first time to observe an eclipse without outside interference.

“The last time I watched an eclipse was in a very light polluted area,” Miller said. “Coming out here to the middle of nowhere basically, you get a much crisper view.”

Miller encouraged others to experience a lunar eclipse, calling it “something you don’t see every day.”

The next lunar eclipse that will be visible in Texas will occur May 26, 2021 in the early morning hours.

Todd Kleiboer
People were bathed in red light to protect their night vision as they signed into the viewing.