The Moon above the Mountains: Special Sights in October

Night sky and the Andromeda Galaxy (bottom middle of image)
The Earth-Moon system is unique – if we had grown up living on a different planet in the solar system, say, Mars, as astronomers we’d be amazed by the Earth and Moon as a ‘double planet’ circling the Sun. Compared to any other body in the solar system our moon is way too big – and the other inner rocky planets lack real moons in the first place. We are truly unique.

What is also unique is that the orbit of the Moon causes it to sometimes pass exactly between the Earth and the Sun and sometimes to pass through the shadow of the Earth, as it will early on the morning of October 8th. This phenomenon, a lunar eclipse, provides us with evidence that the Earth is round (the shadow presents a round contour), and that the Moon moves in its orbit around us, by watching it change position in space through our shadow. The red color the moon shows while in our shadow is light bent through our thin atmosphere – the same light that looks red at sunset. There aren’t too many other occasions when the motions of the heavens can be so readily seen – and with the naked eye no less. Binoculars or a small telescope can add to the enjoyment of watching the eclipse, but even as a naked eye event it is spectacular.

Look low in the west starting around 5:15 am (EDT), and watch the Moon enter the dark part of the Earth’s shadow, known as the umbra. An hour later the Moon will be totally within the shadow – but will set shortly thereafter.

Many of AMC's lodges & huts are good places to see the eclipse. In particular, Greenleaf Hut, Mizpah Spring Hut, and Galehead Hut are prime locations, and the early part of the eclipse can be seen from the Highland Center. And, of course, a clear low horizon to the west will make it much easier to see from wherever you may live.
Interested in a weekend of astronomy in the White Mountains? Join us October 24-26 at AMC Highland Center for an exciting "Mountains of Stars" program >>
The presence of a large moon has had great effects on the evolution of the Earth and phenomena that affect us all, such as tides. While observing an eclipse can be a beautiful experience unto itself, it has deeper meaning as we recognize our personal connection to everything around us – even in space.

For more information and specific times of the eclipse for your location >>

Photo by Stacie Korroch/AMC Photo Contest
The Appalachian Mountain Club and the Carthage College Institute of Astronomy offer astronomy activities and observing opportunities through the Mountains of Stars program. Take a look at www.outdoors.org/astronomy and www.amc-astro.com for events and lots of information about programs, activities, and astronomy information and links.

Guest Nature Notes Blogger, Doug Arion, is an astronomer and Director of the Carthage Institute of Astronomy and the Griffin Observatory, and is President of the Galileoscope project that supplies telescopes for education and outreach around the world. He designs and builds telescopes and optical systems, conducts research in observational astronomy, and teaches and mentors undergraduate students in physics and astronomy. He is excited to bring his love of astronomy and the White Mountains together.