Lunar Eclipse from Cleveland
April 3, 1996

The total lunar eclipse began at 22:20 UT or 4:16 EST. Because of the timing, the Moon was already eclipsed when the Sun set at 6:53. Using 7 x 35 binoculars, I scanned the Eastern horizon for the next half hour, but the moon did not show until 7:25.

When I first spotted the Moon, it was barely visible as an orange flame already at least 8 degrees over the horizon. It was like an orange ghost, shrouded in a haze of orange and white. The color was similar to that in the sunset sky and the yellow of the sodium vapor lights! The S pole was already turning white where totality was destined to end. Surface features did not show well until the end of totality, which came shortly after we spotted it.

I observed the eclipse in my 5" f/5 telescope which I have been using on the comet B2. Some of the other instruments were more suited to Lunar observations, but the surface features were hidden during totality. When the S pole emerged from totality at 7:53, the Moon looked like the planet Mars brought close to us, with it's S polar cap showing!

Before the Moon was spotted, we had been looking at Venus, very close to the Pleiades. The disk was a little over half illuminated. In the glare of Venus and twilight, I could only detect the brightest star, Atlas, with my naked eye, the rest of the Pleiades required binoculars or telescope.

We were able to detect Comet Hyakutake on the Northwestern horizon with the naked eye, but it was not terribly prominent. It was about 3 degrees below Alpha Per when we first spotted it. During the next hour, it moved approximately one degree. The tail in binoculars went back about 3 degrees toward the star Algenib (Alpha Per) but the comet faded as the moon began to show its face through the penumbra.

The Cuyahoga Astronomical Association held a public program at the Lewis Road site in the Cleveland Metroparks. The temperature fell steadily as the Sun set and afterward, settling down in the low thirties. (F) There were approximately 50 observers, club members and public. The horizon was quite clear, the trees covered only 5 degrees of the Eastern sky. The sky was murky, with clouds hanging around the horizons, lots of light pollution and probably air pollution interferred with observations. The site is within a mile or two of Cleveland Hopkins international airport, so passing airplanes were often very loud.

All in all, the program was a success, despite the US weather service, who predicted clouds, clouds, clouds.

Beam back to Observing!

Beam me back, Astra!