I’ve neglected to give any accounting of our lunar eclipse observing party here at the planetarium. Actually, with the night being as cold as it was, someone had the great idea of having the observing down the road from campus behind the coffee shop. That way students could go in and out and we could all have warm drinks. And it was cold! Someone told me that astronomers didn’t feel the cold. If that’s the case, I must be a pretty lousy astronomer (or just have pretty lousy gloves), because my fingers were so numb I could barely work the telescope.
We had five faculty members out with a camera and at least four telescopes. Over a hundred students came and went during the period we were set up (from about 7:30 to 10). Besides the eclipse itself, Saturn and Mars were visible, and we also got some nice views of the Pleiades and the Orion Nebula. Of course, some of the students stayed barely long enough to glance at the moon and race back inside for a cup of coffee, but it was gratifying to hear the occasional gasps as people saw Saturn through a telescope for the first time. I think that’s one of the nice things about events like a lunar eclipse: it gets people looking up. And when people look up they see things besides the moon, things that were there anyway but that they otherwise would have missed.