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Dual Eclipses in October; Telescope Viewing Available

Skywatchers warned not to view solar eclipse without protection

Friday, October 03, 2014
The William M. Staerkel Planetarium encourages central Illinoisans to check out two eclipses this month, one solar (for which it will provide free public viewing), and one lunar.

The lunar eclipse will occur Wednesday morning, Oct. 8, followed by an afternoon partial solar eclipse Thursday, Oct. 23.

Lunar eclipses result from the full Moon passing into the Earth’s shadow. Although the Oct. 8 lunar eclipse technically starts earlier, watchers will notice the Moon entering the darker part of the Earth’s shadow at 4:14 a.m. CDT. The Moon will be entirely within the Earth’s shadow at 5:25 a.m., about the time morning twilight also begins. The Moon will begin to come out of the shadow at 6:24 a.m. Lunar eclipse are safe to observe and no optical aid is necessary, although binoculars will enhance the view.

Solar eclipses result from the Moon coming between the Earth and the Sun. The Moon will cover about 40 percent of the disk of the Sun beginning just after 4:30 p.m. Oct. 23. The Sun will set before the eclipse is over.

NOTE: Given the Sun’s brilliance, solar eclipses are very dangerous to look at with just human eyes, and sunglasses do not offer protection! Those with telescopes using solar filters that thread into the eyepiece should also not use them, as the glass filters can crack due to the heat. Proper solar filters for eclipse viewing will reduce the Sun's glare before it enters the telescope.

On Oct. 23 starting at 4 p.m., the Staerkel Planetarium and the Champaign-Urbana Astronomical Society will offer free public viewing of the eclipse at Sunset Park, on Staley Drive just north of Bradley Avenue in northwest Champaign. The park offers a low horizon for optimum viewing; telescopes equipped with several types of filters will be available. Sky watchers should park along Boulder Ridge Drive. This observing session will be canceled in the event of cloudy weather. 
[Image available at: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1919_eclipse_positive.jpg]

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