Little Shop of Physics to host total lunar eclipse party Jan. 31

total lunar eclipse
Lunar Eclipse December 21, 2010. Credit: Adam Pearlstein.

Before dawn on Wednesday, Jan. 31, the first total lunar eclipse of its kind in over 150 years will take place. Colorado State University’s Little Shop of Physics invites campus and Fort Collins community members to join them in witnessing this rare astronomical occurrence in person at their Lunar Eclipse Party.

This free event will begin during eclipse partiality at 5:30 a.m. on the West Lawn of CSU’s Lory Student Center. Totality is estimated to begin at 5:51 a.m. and will continue through moonset and the event’s conclusion at 7:13 a.m.

“I’m always looking for any astronomical event to throw a party,” said Heather Michalak, assistant director of Little Shop of Physics. “Lunar eclipses are fun because everyone can see them.”

This lunar eclipse is safe for viewing with the naked eye, and Emily Hardegree-Ullman, astronomy and astrophysics instructor, will provide telescopes to assist in the enhanced viewing of the moon’s surface and other celestial objects. Student interns will also be available to guide attendees through the cosmos.

“Often times, students come to events like this never having seen the moon through a telescope,” Michalak said. “They’re always so glad to see it, especially eclipsed,” she said. “It’s all about lighting that fire.”

An unusual occurrence

A number of rare circumstances make this Wednesday’s Lunar Eclipse so extraordinary. First, the eclipse will involve January’s second full moon, its Blue Moon. Second, the moon will be especially close in its orbit with the Earth, classifying it a Supermoon. Lastly, this combination of lunar characteristics in addition to totality has not been visible in the Americas since 1866.

The stages of Wednesday’s Total Lunar Eclipse

Eclipse begins (moon enters penumbra) at 3:51 a.m.

Partial eclipse begins (moon enters umbra) at 4:48 a.m.

Full eclipse begins (moon fully in umbra) at 5:51 a.m.

Moonset while moon fully eclipsed at 7:13 a.m.

Little Shop of Physics is a program through the University’s College of Natural Sciences that encourages students to share their passion for science with the community. Not just any science outreach program, Little Shop provides a platform for undergraduate students to participate in meaningful service while finding creative ways to engage with people of all backgrounds. Little shop visits schools, creates educational videos, works with teachers to create lesson plans, and more.