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Super blue blood moon: Hundreds throng to get a glimpse of rare lunar eclipse

The phenomenon, described as a three-in-one lunar eclipse with the super, blood and blue moon occurring at the same time, has not been observed in 150 years.

Written by Prabal Sharma | Chandigarh |
February 1, 2018 1:32:05 pm
Super blue blood moon, lunar eclipse, chandigarh, indian express news Moon-watchers at Rose Garden, Chandigarh, on Wednesday. (Source: Jasbir Malhi)

OVER A hundred people saw the lunar eclipse through a 4.5 inch reflector telescope at Rose Garden for around three hours on Wednesday. The Department of Science and Technology and Renewable Energy, Chandigarh Administration, in association with the Society for Promotion of Science and Technology in India (SPSTI), has made arrangements for the general public to observe the unique astronomical phenomenon of the rare lunar eclipse.

The phenomenon, described as a three-in-one lunar eclipse with the super, blood and blue moon occurring at the same time, has not been observed in 150 years. The event was supervised by Professor Keya Dharamvir, a former professor of physics at Panjab University and the general secretary of SPSTI.

“The three types of moons occurring at the same time is very rare but not of extreme excitement as far as astrophysics is concerned. Super moon is when the moon is nearest to the earth and appears larger than usual, a blood moon is a red-coloured moon and a blue moon is when two new moons occur in the same month. The earth casts two types of shadows on the moon which are umbra (the dense shadow) and penumbra (the light shadow). The moon is only visible when it is in the penumbra and disappears as soon as it enters the umbra,” she said.

While demonstrating the phenomenon with a torch and a football’s shadow on a whiteboard, the professor explained the reason for the red colour of the moon to nearly 100 people of almost every age present there, “The moon appears red because the sun’s light reaches the moon through the earth’s atmosphere in a lunar eclipse as the earth is in the middle. Therefore, all colours except red scatter in the dense atmosphere and only red reaches the moon.”

She was also accompanied by two PhD students of astrophysics from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) who explained about the telescope they were to use to view the eclipse. One of the two, Ankit, mentioned that the telescope was a 4.5 inch reflector telescope and ideal to witness the rare phenomenon.

The other student, Avinash Singh, said, “The eclipse started around 5:45 pm and we will be able to see the red coloured moon at 7:40 pm when it enters the penumbra. We are also using the Google sky maps application on the phone to track the moon’s position.”

What is SPSTI?

Speaking about their society, Dharamvir mentioned that SPSTI was a collection of people, who are accomplished scientists as well as science enthusiasts. “We come from all walks of life and have a shared passion for science. We also believe that our country should be curious and more aware of such phenomenon and science in general. We have lots of equipment of our own like this telescope being used and OSAW in Ambala also provides us with lab equipment.”

The Chandigarh-based society organises lectures and talks about science at the Tagore Theatre and other venues to enlighten the public. They also organise summer schools where they make children explore night sky watching and other exciting activities.

Superstition

Another topic of discussion at Rose Garden was the superstitious beliefs people have regarding the eclipse to which Dharamvir said, “As far as my opinion goes, no superstitious belief is true when it comes to the lunar eclipse. The shadow is not harmful and the moonlight is not negative in nature. If anything, the earth obstructs the sun’s light to the moon. So, how can less light be more dangerous?”

She mentioned that solar eclipses, however, have a scientific reason for not being observed with the naked eye as the ultra-violet radiation is stronger during that period. “Solar eclipses are of higher excitement than the lunar ones. The reason being that during solar eclipses, we witness solar flares, spectroscopic changes and various other phenomena along with the eclipse,” added the professor.

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