Moon shine

The clouds above the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) threatened to veil the cosmic light show that was about to take place high above. The moon, however, would not be denied and the skies cleared just in time to reveal the first lunar eclipse of 2008.

MOSI opened its doors free of charge to allow the community to watch the event. The museum does this at least once a month to give the public a chance to view its galactic backyard with the aid of high-powered telescopes by playing host to an event called Skywatch.

“Skywatch is a fantastic educational outreach program that puts telescopes in the hands of the public and children,” said Dennis Farr, president of the Museum Astronomical Resource Society (M.A.R.S.).

With the event taking place so near to USF, it is little wonder that students turned out to see what the big deal was all about.

“This is so great – especially for the kids – it sparks an interest in science in them,” said Cristina Echazabal, a graduate student studying anthropology.

Other students were thrilled that this type of event could be found right next door.

“I don’t normally have the time to come do something like this. It is so cool that it so close to campus, ” said Sean Donaldson, a junior majoring in education. Donaldson and Jessica Anderson, a junior majoring in psychology, had found out about the lunar event by going directly to MOSI’s Web site.

For others it was just fun to be out with many other folks in attendance, enjoying something that only happens a few times a year.

“Oh my God, it’s awesome! Come see the moon!” Kimberly Gouch, an education major, said to her friend over her cell phone.

The weather was cool and breezy, for Wednesday’s eclipse with spotty cloud cover blocking the celestial view. The show started around 9 p.m. when the moon started to fade. The high point came at around 10:30 p.m., when the moon – which was almost completely black – entered “total eclipse,” and was completely covered by the shadow of the earth. At that point, the moon turned blood red. The crowd stopped moving for a brief moment and stood looking up in awe.

The museum wanted to make sure that the crowd in attendance – estimated at around 1,000 – was comfortable, so they opened the cafeteria, the gift shop and even held showings of “Roving Mars” in the museum’s IMAX dome. There were many volunteers and employees on hand, either from M.A.R.S. or from the museums’ staff. This allowed the guests to ask questions and learn more about what they were seeing high above. Numerous telescopes – some owned by the museum, the M.A.R.S. volunteers or stargazers bringing their own equipment – were on hand near the museum’s front entrance.

“We have been doing this for years – weather permitting,” said Stephen Nipper, manager of planetarium and senior programs. To find future events at MOSI, call 813-987-6100 or visit mosi.org.

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