003Since our girls had a few days off for a fall break, we visited Northern Arizona and stopped at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. It wasn’t the first time we have been there, but it’s been many years since the last time we did.
We planned the visit for night time so we would be able to look through their telescopes.

Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, is famous for being the place where our dwarf planet, Pluto, was discovered.

The observatory was founded by Percival Lowell in 1894, initially with the purpose of studying Mars. Over the years, it became the place for many discoveries, including the first detection of the expanding nature of our Universe, as well as mapping the moon for the Apollo missions, the rings on Uranus, atmosphere on Pluto, just to mention a few.

During our visit, we looked through a few telescopes, some portable ones set up outside, as well as the Pluto Discovery Telescope.
One of the most famous telescopes in America, the Pluto Discovery Telescope was built in 1928/29 with the purpose of finding Planet X, the ninth planet that Percival Lowell was sure it had to exist. Though famous for discovering this dwarf planet, on February 18, 1930, this time the telescope was set to view the Moon.

There was a significant line to look through the telescope, but it was a pleasant night and we had nothing else to do anyway, so didn’t mind the wait. When we finally got inside the dome, we were able to walk up a few steps and look at the moon through this 13- inch telescope.  It was amazing, especially when considering that the object we were looking at is at 238,900 miles away.

While viewing the moon, we learned that a few days after our visit, on Sunday (last night), September 27th, we would experience a Super Moon, a total lunar eclipse. also called a blood moon.  This phenomenon is very rare, the last one was in 1982, and the next one will be in 2033.

Lunar eclipses in general are not rare, but most of the time they happen around 3 or 4 in the morning.  I’ve seen some over the years, but I have never seen one as spectacular as the one last night.  In addition, it happened during the perfect time for everyone to see, early in the evening, when even our youngest child was able to enjoy it.

It was a significant event because it was a full moon was at its closest place to Earth, which made it seem larger and brighter than full moons in general, hence the name “Supermoon”.  A total lunar eclipse occurred early in the evening when the moon was its brightest and biggest. Total lunar eclipse means that the Earth is perfectly lined up between the Sun and the Moon, and the moon was totally in the Earth’s shadow.

Due to the Earth’s atmosphere, the moon was totally dark, but it still had a red outline, which gave it the name of “blood moon”.028
So last night we set up our small telescope in our backyard and watched the moon for hours. Our friends and neighbors were all out as well, some of the neighbor kids came over to look at tit through our telescope.

It was a pretty spectacular event, made even better by the clear Arizona skies. We do miss clouds, but last night we were really grateful for the clear sky that allowed us to follow this phenomenon from our own back yard.
As soon as the moon was rising, it was already in partial eclipse.

We had a little moon party set up with cameras and the smaller of our telescopes, as we followed the shadow of the Earth across the surface of the Moon. The total eclipse occurred about an hour after the moon rose, then we still followed it as it came out of the shadow and shone brightly as a Supermoon.

The pictures were taken by Jeff Fromm.  The first one is a view from our street of the Supermoon rising while in partial eclipse, and the second one if the moon almost fully behind the Eath’s shadow.