Moon hides its face as hundreds watch, at OMSI

Although you could see it anywhere in East Portland, find out why this astronomical event drew such a large crowd in the river-side museum’s darkened parking lot …

Getting a close-up view of the eclipsed Moon and of Saturn, visitors use telescopes set up by the Rose City Astronomers Club.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Although the full lunar eclipse in the early evening hours of February 20 could be seen anywhere in the greater Portland area, a crowd – mostly families – poured into the parking lot east of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) to join in the “moon party”.

“It’s great to see everyone here enjoying themselves,” beamed OMSI’s planetarium manager, Jim Todd, as he looked out over the sea of sky watchers. “It’s remarkable that we have a perfectly clear sky for viewing tonight, in Oregon, in February.”

More than 600 people gathered to watch the lunar eclipse in OMSI’s parking lot. Looking closely just to the right of the enlarged inset box, you can see the planet Saturn in the night sky!

During a total eclipse, Todd told us, the moon and the sun and the Earth line up perfectly. “The Moon moves into the Earth’s shadow. If you’re standing on the Moon, looking back at the Earth, the sun move behind the Earth, and you would see a red ring around the Earth.”

By the time the Moon was completely shadowed, about 7 p.m., the group watching the eclipse had grown to over 600. “This is so cool,” said 4-year-old Sellwood resident Jason Lee. “I’ve never seen anything like this before in my whole life!”

OMSI’s planetarium manager, Jim Todd, gives a live, play-by-play description of the unfolding celestial event.

Rose City Astronomers Club set up telescopes at the event, giving people a close-up look at the moon as it fell into darkness. Because the sky was clear, and the moon was dark, one powerful ‘scope gave visitors a clear look at Saturn and its rings.

“We hope that some of the people who are visiting us tonight,” Todd commented, “next come to a planetarium show, and see what else they can learn about the night sky. Who knows, it may spark a lifelong interest in astronomy in one of these kids, who might grow up to be the astronaut who takes a photo of the earth – from the moon – during a future lunar eclipse.”

“Moon over McLoughlin”, as a bus passes by.

OMSI is located at 1945 SE Water Avenue. For general information, call (503) 797-4000 or visit www.omsi.edu.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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