The Great Solar Eclipse and a Star Gazing Night: August 2017

Thank you to Craig Austin for this Star Gazing post. Craig is often present during Moose Hill’s Star Gazing Nights, along with a few members of the Astronomical Society of Southern New England, and other local amateur astronomers. Moose Hill is grateful to everyone who volunteers their time to share their scopes and knowledge with anyone who is interested in learning more and seeing the night sky from our open field.

August was a particularly busy month for astronomy enthusiasts at Moose Hill Sanctuary

Solar Eclipse Day Viewing Event, August 21

Over 200 (!!) people attended the solar eclipse viewing event at Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary.  Astronomers from the Astronomical Society of Southern New England and other local astronomers set up in the meadow where the star nights are held, to provide a safe viewing environment to see the solar eclipse. A small number of solar filter glasses were available (participants were fantastic at sharing these with each other), as well as telescopes that projected or filtered the sun-moon image in a way safe for viewing. At the peak, about 66% of the sun was covered by the moon.

Check out some of the local press that Moose Hill saw because of the eclipse event:

Wicked Local Sharon

Wicked Local Walpole

I wasn’t able to attend the event at Moose Hill, because I was near St. Louis, Missouri in the path where the moon completely covered the sun in a total solar eclipse.  Here are a few pictures that I took during totality:

totality, photo by Craig Austin

the “engagement ring” picture, photo by Craig Austin

Words are difficult to describe the event. It was wonderful, yet eerie, as the light changed from a bright sunny day to something that was like twilight, yet wasn’t. It was great to witness such an event even the total eclipse was for just a little over a minute where we were. During the event, the cicadas ramped up the volume all around, and the crowd cheered the eclipse.  And it was great to be among family and friends while witnessing it.

Star Gazing Night, August 26

It was going to be hard for the star gazing night following the eclipse to have as much drama, but the night turned out to be a challenge for astronomers. About a dozen astronomers set up telescopes and binoculars and thirty people arrived to see what the astronomers were finding in their scopes.

The moon was just over the trees in the west as it was getting dark. Saturn was the main feature of the night. The rings were tilted toward us, providing a nice collar to the planet. Other objects, however, were hard to see, even in the larger telescopes. Only the strongest constellations were visible, I guess after the eclipse we can only say better luck next time. That’s the fun of astronomy – while there is always great stuff in the skies, we cannot always see it through the clouds.

We hope you will join us for the next Star Gazing Night on Friday, September 29.

Learn more about Moose Hill and check out the line-up of Fall Programs – register early to be sure these great programs run!

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