On Jan. 20, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science opened its doors after-hours for a special viewing of the supermoon total eclipse. Starting at 8:30 p.m., more than 1,000 museum visitors were welcomed into the museum’s campus to view the phenomenon until 11:30 p.m.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon moves into the Earth’s shadow. When this happens a dark red interior color is reflected. They don’t happen often because normally the moon moves slightly over or under the shadow when it’s on the far side of the Earth from the sun, according to The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.
At 8:34 p.m. the Partial Eclipse began and guests began to arrive. Crowds began to form on the museum grounds and and on the observatory deck. To get a closer look at the supermoon, telescopes were provided by the museum and Albuquerque Astronomical Society for visitors to enjoy.
While waiting for the supermoon eclipse, the crowd happily explored the grounds and picked up museum distributed flyers with information regarding the night. For quick and easy understanding, the stages of the eclipse were defined and explained.
“It’s our job to introduce people to what’s happening in space, science and astronomy, and to interpret phenomena thats happening in the night sky,” Museum Space Science Director Jim Greenhouse said. “Plus we just wanted everyone to come out tonight and learn a little something about the moon, and enjoy seeing the moon turn red during the eclipse.”
The inside of the museum was set up with several tables and stations to project the eclipse from other parts of the world. Other attractions included the observatory and, in one room, children were welcomed to color on educational worksheets. People of all ages looked, wide eyed, at projections of the moon.
“I love the moon. I love astronomical events… I think it ties in a little bit of spirituality and I think it’s really special for everybody to come out here as a community,” said Sherele Brooks, environmental science major and University of New Mexico Junior. “I love the reinforcement of science.”
At 9:41 p.m., the moon began to undergo its total eclipse, meaning that the disk of the moon began to be obscured. By 10:12 p.m, the supermoon reached its maximum eclipse and the entirety of Earth’s shadow was covering the moon. However, the view at The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science was obscured by moderate cloud coverage.
By 10:43 p.m., the end of the total eclipse, the crows started to dwindle as everyone wrapped up. Telescopes were packed away as cloud obstruction seemed to increase. Despite this uncanny coincidence, museum goers still appeared to have a good time, laughing and smiling at the phenomenon of the eclipse.
According to The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, the next total lunar eclipse won’t happen until May 26, 2021, so this was the last chance to experience the phenomenon for the next two years.
Luisa Pennington is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @_lpennington_.