Special Lunar Edition, 2003

What’s  Up


Morgan County Skies ?


News of the Morgan County Observatory Foundation (MCOF)    
Learn more at the MCOF website:

May & November Skies - Coming Events: Lunar Eclipses  

May 15  Lunar Eclipse Party ( Greenwood School )
May 15-16; Thursday night-Friday morning

05 pm   Moon meets Earth’s “outer shadow” (penumbra)
03 pm   Moon meets Earth’s “inner shadow” (umbra)
11:14 pm   Moon is totally within Earth’s “inner shadow” (umbra)
11:35 pm   Full Moon is in the middle of its eclipse
06 am   Moon begins to exit the umbra
1:17 am   Moon leaves umbra, partially eclipsed by the penumbra
2:15 am  Moon is free from Earth’s shadows

May 16  Full Moon – Planting Moon or Milk Moon
May 17  MCOF General Business Meeting 
10am at the County Library
September 23  Autumn equinox – Fall begins at
October 26  “Fall back” to Eastern Standard Time

November 8-9  Lunar Eclipse Party (
Greenwood School ) 
November 8-9; Saturday night-Sunday morning
5:15 pm   Moon meets Earth’s “outer shadow” (penumbra)
6:32 pm   Moon meets Earth’s “inner shadow” (umbra)
06 pm   Moon is totally within Earth’s “inner shadow” (umbra)
8:19 pm   Full Moon is in the middle of its eclipse
8:31 pm   Moon begins to exit the umbra, ending the total eclipse
05 pm   Moon leaves umbra, partially eclipsed by the penumbra
11:22 pm   Moon is free from Earth’s shadows
November 9  Full Moon – Frosty Moon or Beaver Moon

More information can come from:
        Kevin Boles, President MCOF  ( )
        Dave Fye, The Sky Guy  ( )
        Johnna Armstrong, Webmaster ( )
Bill Lands , Newsletter Editor ( )

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 On the 7th of May this year the planet Mercury will transit the northwest region of the Sun in a preview of next years long awaited Venus transit.  That rare event, no one alive today has ever seen a transit of Venus, will take place on June 8th 2004 .  The planet Venus as it crosses in front of the Sun will be 5 times as wide as Mercury and about 25 times bigger in area, which will make it a naked eye event.


 This transit of Mercury will be completely visible in Africa , Asia and  Europe , but we will be able to see only the very end of it.  This is what you must do to catch a glimpse of the planet Mercury as it crosses in front of the Sun.


You must never look directly at the Sun, and must use the Shoebox and pinhole method.  Get a shoebox and glue a piece of white paper to one end and poke a small nail hole in the other.  Point this end of the box at the Sun.  Sunlight will enter the box through the nail hole and form an image of the sun on the white paper.  This is the safest way to view the Sun.  It ‘s also a great way to view Sunspots.


 To view the Mercury transit, get up before sunrise on the morning of May 7th.   Sunrise is at 6:06 that morning.  Point your shoebox at the Sun as soon as you can see it.  Mercury should still be near the western edge of the Sun.  At exactly 6:30 Mercury will reach the northwestern edge of the Sun, and at 6:35 will be completely gone from in front of the Sun and the transit will be over.


 The Planet Jupiter will be very near M-44 the Beehive cluster in the constellation  Cancer until the end of May.


  In early April Jupiter completed it retrograde motion and resumed it’s regular west to east movement against the stellar backdrop.  The Retrograde motion of the outer planets is nothing more than an optical illusion.  For awhile each year all the outer planets seem to turn and move east instead of their normal motion west to east. Having Jupiter near the Beehive Cluster will make this Cluster very easy to find with binoculars, and Jupiter and its moons will be in the same field of view.  Also since there will be many stars of this open cluster in the same field a person could see Jupiter’s movement night by night.


 The Beehive Cluster, M-44 is an open cluster of about 300 stars and is about 500 light years distant..


  Be sure to view the total eclipse of the Moon on May 15th, beginning at 10:03 pm and ending at 1:15am .  When you look at the Earth’s shadow as the moon moves through it, you can see that the Earth truly is round. There will be an eclipse party that night at the observatory.  Be sure to attend.


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 Kevin’s Corner:

          Everyone is invited as the Morgan County Observatory Foundation is hosting a public stargazing party on Friday evening, May 2 from 7:30 till 10:00 PM at the Greenwood Elementary School site of our county’s beautiful observatory.  Amateur astronomers from the Foundation will be present to assist you in exploring the night sky through the many fine telescopes that will be on hand.  Many magnificent celestial objects will be visible including the Jupiter, Saturn and its rings, the Orion nebula, double stars, and galaxies. Come down to the observatory facility at the south end of the Greenwood property and see our county’s telescope.

Displays and hands-on activities will be present and refreshments will be served. Information will be on hand about the observatory project and how you can help support efforts to complete construction of the county’s public observatory to house the donated 16" Cassegrain telescope from the US Naval Academy. Memberships in the Foundation will be available, with benefits including: Collector’s edition MCOF Calendar, exclusive Member’s nights at the Observatory, Quarterly Newsletter and notifications of all events. 

The Foundation would like to thank the following new or returning members and donators for their generous support: Pat & Beth Nolan, United Way of Berkeley & Morgan County ,  and the Moose Lodge.  All donations of $50 or more will be memorialized on Founding Members’ plaques to be displayed inside the Observatory. More information about astronomy and MCOF can be found at the Foundation website at

             Come out and enjoy the dark skies of Morgan County while learning more about astronomy and the stars. In the event of rain or mostly overcast skies, this event will be rescheduled for Saturday night May 3rd.  Upcoming events include an Indoor Star Show at the Ice House April 26th on the Total Lunar Eclipse.

             To get to Greenwood from Berkeley Springs, follow Rt 522 South 2 miles and take a left on Winchester Grade Rd (Rt 13), then travel 9 miles and park at the school on the left.   For information, call 304-258-1013 or email at . 

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Morgan County Observatory Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit educational organization founded in 1999.  Current officers are:  Kevin Boles, President; Brice Williams, Vice-president; Roger McIntire, Secretary; Karen Shoemaker, Treasurer.  Additional members of the Board of Directors are:  Pat Aragon, Robert Campbell, Warren Hart, Leigh Jenkins, Bill Lands .  Board members are elected at the Annual Business Meeting of the MCOF, which will next be on May 17, 2003 .

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Senior Moments - - - Enjoying A Sense of Place and Time    by Bill Lands

BOYS AND GIRLS, COME OUT TO PLAY (A Traditional Poem for a Full Moon)

Boys and girls, come out to play,
The moon doth shine as bright as day.
Leave your supper, and leave your sleep,
And join your playmates in the street.

Come with a whoop, and come with a call,
Come with a good will or come not at all.
Up the ladder and down the wall,
A penny loaf will serve us all.

 MCOF Eclipse Parties for May 15-16 & November 8-9, 2003 at the Observatory, Greenwood . 

 A whole lot of holes!  

Getting to know the craters of the Moon can be something like bird-watching as you learn the names and locations and sizes of the many different craters that decorate the Moon’s surface.  The number of lunar craters is enough to keep any person pretty busy for quite a while.  You can see the list (with locations) prepared by the Flagstaff Field Center of the US Geological Survey and posted at   with much more background material at  where you can see which were around the different Apollo landing sites.  NASA has a similar list  at its site 

A preview of what you may see during the May and November eclipses this year is found at the site  The beautiful photo of the moon at total eclipse given at   is a great illustration of the comment made in Sky and Telescope: ”You’re seeing light from all the sunrises and sunsets around the world being refracted (bent) into the Earth’s shadow.”  The color fascinates me.  Photos of moon craters are also a bit like trying to photograph wildlife.  It takes a lot of skill and patience to get a photo like that shown at 

Will earth’s shadow move right to left or left to right?  Try to predict the time when the sharp shadow of the Earth will cross a crater during a lunar eclipse.  This year, you have two good chances to test your predictions with your own observations and measurements.  Keep records and compare your measurements with MCOF members.  Another version of this game is to predict the phase of the moon (or simply the day of the month) when a selected crater will be at the terminator of the moon’s own shadow.  Also related to estimating the location of the terminator is a project of using the length of sharp shadows of certain craters to estimate the height of the crater walls.  A helpful introduction to lunar terminators is at  

Most measurements and estimates of crater height and width can follow the skill and discipline of triangulation that George Washington learned in his early teens as he started being a surveyor.  It’s never too late to try your hand at predicting what is going to happen next month!

An eclipse of the Moon doesn’t happen very often, but we see a very dark New Moon every month - - - with a half-moon every two weeks.  Do you know what makes those shadows on the moon’s surface?  Fred Espenak likes to teach about eclipses, and his informative site is noted on pages 5 & 6.

Much more information about past and future lunar eclipses is provided by the US Navy at  I think that it is interesting that we had three total lunar eclipses in the winter & summer of 2000-2001, and soon there will be four in the spring & fall of 2003-2004, (although we cannot see them all from Morgan County). 


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 Lunar Eclipses for Beginners 
The following copyrighted material is from 
            (c) Copyright 2000 by Fred Espenak ( ) 

         The Moon is a cold, rocky body about 2,160 miles (3,476 km) in diameter. It has no light of its own but shines by sunlight reflected from its surface. The Moon orbits Earth about once every 29 and a half days. As it circles our planet, the changing position of the Moon with respect to the Sun causes our natural satellite to cycle through a series of phases: New, New Crescent, First Quarter, Waxing Gibbous, Full, Waning Gibbous, Last Quarter, Old Crescent and back to New again. The phase known as New Moon can not actually be seen because the illuminated side of the Moon is then pointed away from Earth. The rest of the phases are familiar to all of us as the Moon cycles through them month after month. Did you realize that the word month is derived from the Moon's 29.5 day period?  

         To many of us, Full Moon is the phase of love and romance. When the Moon is Full, it rises at sunset and is visible all night long. At the end of the night, the Full Moon sets just as the Sun rises. None of the Moon's other phases have this unique characteristic. It happens because the Moon is directly opposite the Sun in the sky when the Moon is Full. Full Moon also has special significance with regard to eclipses.

Geometry of the Sun, Earth and Moon During an Eclipse of the Moon.
Earth's two shadows are the penumbra and the umbra.
(Sizes and distances not to scale)

An eclipse of the Moon (or lunar eclipse) can only occur at Full Moon, and only if the Moon passes through some portion of the Earth's shadow. The shadow is actually composed of two cone-shaped components, one nested inside the other. The outer or penumbral shadow is a zone where the Earth blocks part but not all of the Sun's rays from reaching the Moon. In contrast, the inner or umbral shadow is a region where the Earth blocks all direct sunlight from reaching the Moon.

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Total Lunar Eclipse

·         The entire Moon passes through Earth's umbral shadow.

·         These events are quite striking for the vibrant range of colors the Moon can take on during the total phase (i.e. - totality).

Two to four times each year, the Moon passes through some portion of the Earth's penumbral or umbral shadows and one of three types of eclipses occurs.  When an eclipse of the Moon takes place, everyone on the night side of Earth can see it. About 35% of all eclipses are of the penumbral type which are very difficult to detect, even with a telescope. Another 30% are partial eclipses which are easy to see with the unaided eye. The final 35% or so are total eclipses, and these are quite extrordinary events to behold. 


 During a total lunar eclipse, the Earth blocks all direct sunlight from the Moon. Astronauts on the Moon would then see the Earth eclipsing the Sun. (They would see a bright red ring around the Earth as they watched all the sunrises and sunsets happening simultaneousely around the world!) While the Moon remains completely within Earth's umbral shadow, indirect sunlight still manages to reach and illuminate it. However, this sunlight must first pass deep through the Earth's atmosphere which filters out most of the blue colored light. The remaining light is a deep red or orange in color and is much dimmer than pure white sunlight. Earth's atmosphere also bends or refracts some of this light so that a small fraction of it can reach and illuminate the Moon. 

The total phase of a lunar eclipse is so interesting and beautiful precisely because of the filtering and refracting effect of Earth's atmosphere. If the Earth had no atmosphere, then the Moon would be completely black during a total eclipse. Instead, the Moon can take on a range of colors from dark brown and red to bright orange and yellow. The exact appearance depends on how much dust and clouds are present in Earth's atmosphere. 

All total eclipses start with a penumbral followed by a partial eclipse, and end with a partial followed by a penumbral eclipse (the total eclipse is sandwiched in the middle). The penumbral phases of the eclipse are quite difficult to see, even with a telescope. However, partial and total eclipses are easy to observe, even with the naked eye.


Observing Lunar Eclipses

Unlike solar eclipses, lunar eclipses are completely safe to watch. You don't need any kind of protective filters. It isn't even necessary to use a telescope. You can watch the lunar eclipse with nothing more than your own two eyes. If you have a pair of binoculars, they will help magnify the view and will make the red coloration brighter and easier to see. A standard pair of 7x35 or 7x50 binoculars work fine. Remember to dress warmly and enjoy the spectacle!





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