Total Lunar Eclipse at Cronyn Observatory, Sunday, September 27th, 2015

Partly cloudy skies greeted visitors to Western University’s Cronyn Observatory for the Total Lunar Eclipse, coincident with the Supermoon, Sunday, September 27th, 2015. This was also Western University’s Homecoming weekend, September 25th—27th, 2015.

There was solar observing from around 3:00 p.m. in Western University’s Alumni/ Thompson Parking Lot, on the wide brick-paved sidewalk on the south side of the Cronyn Observatory. Among RASC London Centre members present were Dale Armstrong, with his 80mm Vernonscope refractor and glass solar filter; Mike Costa, with his iOptron Solar 60 refractor; and Peter Jedicke, who set up the Sunspotter (provided by Fanshawe College). Steve Gauthier was also there and Peter estimated that there were some 75 people for solar observing in the afternoon.

Event coordinator Professor Jan Cami and Dale Armstrong worked to install the Observatory’s Celestron NexImage 5 Solar System Imager on Dale’s 80mm Vernonscope refractor to display a live image of the Sun on a laptop computer. Graduate students Dilini Subasinghe and Parshati Patel were there, as was Physics and Astronomy Department staff and RASC member Henry Leparskas, taking pictures with his camera.

On the roof patio of the Cronyn Observatory Tricia Colvin showed visitors sunspots on the Sun through the Observatory’s Meade 8-inch (203mm) Schmidt-Cassegrain (26mm Plossl eyepiece, 77X) and Kendrick Astro Baader film solar filter. Mark Tovey showed people solar prominences on the Sun through the Observatory’s 90mm Coronado H-Alpha Solar Telescope (18mm Plossl eyepiece and 2X Barlow lens, 98X). Visitors were also shown the Sotellunium, a mechanical eclipse demonstration model, set up on a table in the Cronyn Observatory’s slide lecture room and demonstrated by undergraduate student William Hyland. 

Towards evening a huge lineup of people formed at the entrance of the Cronyn and curved all the way around to the south side of the Observatory where more RASC London members set up their telescopes. Faculty members present included Professors Els Peeters, Sarah Gallagher and Peter Brown. Post-doctoral fellow Bhairavi Shankar, assisted by RASC London member Bob Duff, retrieved “Getting Started in Astronomy” (RASC, SkyNews [2015]) pamphlets from the basement for distribution with other promotional materials from Western, CPSX and CLRN on a table at the Cronyn entrance. 

The Cronyn slide lecture room was packed as Professor Jan Cami’s made the first 2 presentations—including demonstrations of the Sotellunium—of the slide lecture “Total Lunar Eclipse, 2015-09-27”, composed by Peter Jedicke, who soon arrived to make 7 more presentations to an estimated total of some 600 visitors. Jan made 2 more slide presentations for the huge crowd of people outside, with a large computer screen set up in the open back of a hatch-back vehicle. In all there were estimated to be between 800—1,000 visitors for the lunar eclipse event.

Graduate student Tony Martinez was at the big 25.4cm refractor in the dome as fellow graduate student and RASC London Centre member Emily McCullough gave a talk to the visitors. The sky became cloudy and obscured the Moon’s first contact with the Earth’s umbral shadow at 9:07 p.m. EDT. A brief clearing in the clouds revealed a half-eclipsed Moon. However, the sky did not clear out until total eclipse began at 10:11 p.m., lasting 72 minutes until 11:23 p.m. when the Moon began to emerge from the Earth’s shadow. The Moon had a deep red colour and people took pictures with telescopes and cameras. 

People crowded around the telescopes set up on brick-paved sidewalk on the south side of the Cronyn Observatory. RASC London Centre members with telescopes included Dale Armstrong, with his 254mm Newtonian on its alt-az. mount; Mike Costa, with his iOptron Solar 60 refractor (minus the solar filter); Dave Clark, with his Celestron Super C8 (20.3cm) Schmidt-Cassegrain; Mike Roffey, with his 150mm Celestron NexStar 6SE Schmidt-Cassegrain; Steve Gauthier, with his Ceravolo 145mm HD Maksutov-Newtonian and tripod mounted 10X70mm Fujinon binoculars; Patrick Whelan, with his Meade 254mm LXD75 Schmidt-Newtonian on a home-built Dobsonian mount; and Harold Tutt, with his 80mm Stellarvue Nighthawk refractor. Mike Hanes was there and Bob Duff took pictures of the event with his FujiFilm FinePix AV160 digital camera, including pictures of the Moon half-emerged from the eclipse through Steve Gauthier’s Ceravolo 145mm HD Maksutov-Newtonian. 

On the roof patio of the Cronyn Observatory Tricia Colvin showed visitors the eclipsed Moon in the London Centre’s 25.4cm Dobsonian (17mm Nagler eyepiece, 66X) and Mark Tovey supervised smartphone photography with the Cronyn Observatory’s 8-inch (20.3cm) Meade 2080/LX3 Schmidt-Cassegrain (26mm Plossl eyepiece, 77X). Paul Kerans set up his Celestron 9.25-inch (235mm) Schmidt-Cassegrain (31mm Ethos eyepiece, 76X) on a Sky-Watcher EQ6 mount and Charlene Kerans set up a camera and tripod to take pictures of the eclipse. 

In addition to the RASC London members, there was one undergraduate student, Ian Mulholland, who set up his 114mm Newtonian on the south side of the Cronyn. This very successful eclipse evening ended around 11:30 p.m. with clear skies and with many thanks going to everybody who made it a success.