UCR physics and astronomy department educates public on lunar eclipses

astronomyA lecture on lunar eclipses was held in Bourns Hall Room A265 Friday, September 25, before the super moon total lunar eclipse that took place Sunday night. The talk was conducted by Mario De Leo-Winkler, a physics and astronomy postdoctoral researcher at UCR.

With a room of about 30 attendees, Leo-Winkler began by shedding light on a few basic facts about the moon, as well as a brief history on the satellite’s formation that took place 4.5 billion years ago. Despite the apparent lack of physical activity on the surface of the moon, Winkler explained there are in fact things taking place within the celestial body. “Volcanic activity continues in the nucleus of the moon even today,” Leo-Winkler explained.

Due to an enormous amount of light pollution, living in the city can often make it difficult to view events that take place in the night sky. However, Sunday’s lunar eclipse could be seen by the unaided eye of those residing in bustling cities everywhere.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes through the earth’s shadow. On Sunday night, skygazers experienced a total lunar eclipse, which is the result of a full moon passing completely in Earth’s umbra, the darkest area of the Earth’s shadow. The moon’s copper to reddish glow during a total lunar eclipse stems from sunlight that passes through our atmosphere and is then reflected on the moon.

Making this total lunar eclipse even more spectacular was the occurrence of a supermoon. “A supermoon happens when the moon is closest to the earth, making it 30 percent brighter and 14 percent bigger,” Leo-Winkler explained. “You won’t notice a big difference, but if you pay attention the moon will look a little bit bigger.” Sunday’s lunar eclipse was also the fourth in a tetrad, a series of four lunar eclipses that occur six months apart. A tetrad is quite uncommon and won’t happen again until 2032.

Leo-Winkler ended the talk by conducting a brief Q-and-A before encouraging the audience to attend the astronomy lectures that will take place in the upcoming months. On Saturday evening, the physics and astronomy department also hosted a workshop on how to properly use a telescope, as well as a viewing of the super moon total lunar eclipse Sunday night.

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