StarWatch: Moravian College Astronomy
StarWatch for the greater Lehigh Valley



175   JANUARY 2, 2000:     Astronomical Highlights for 2000
The calendar has flipped. The year 2000 is now upon us. The Earth is in its final revolution of the second millennium, and it is also a leap year too! Lots of interesting astronomical events await us. January certainly starts off with a bang. There is a fine total lunar eclipse visible on the evening and morning of the 20-21. The main event starts at 10:01 p.m., and continues until 1:25 a.m. Friday. Read ahead in the StarWatch section at the Net address given below. During early winter Jupiter and Saturn are also well-placed in the south right after dark. On the morning of February 2nd a spectacular conjunction of the moon and Venus occurs very low in the southeast at dawn. The week of February 13 will be a great time to see Mercury after sunset, as well as Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn all lined up from the southwest to south. By the end of March, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are positioned within 10 degrees of each other, low in the west as darkness falls. On April 6 during twilight, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and a very thin crescent moon crowd to within 7 degrees of each other--spectacular. The planets are definitely on parade during the first four months of 2000 before being lost in the sun’s glare in mid-April. But by early June, Jupiter and Saturn will emerge about one degree apart at dawn in the ENE. They will stay close throughout the entire month. Another possible strong return of Leonid meteors is expected for the morning of November 17, with the East Coast of the US a prime target area for the best display. The meteor "storm" has not yet materialized. Then on Christmas day 2000, a partial solar eclipse visible in the early afternoon, brings to a fine conclusion the last year of the second millennium.


Postmortem on the Cold Moon Eclipse

Since hindsight is always 20-20, it is obvious to anyone that was skywatching on the evening of January 20-21 that the total lunar eclipse occurred under mostly clear, but brutally cold and windy conditions. The moon was seen dimly through the snowy clouds as early as 6 p.m. here in Coopersburg where I live. Three hours later, the sky was essentially clear with an occasional scudding cumulous. Then the winds picked up, driving powdery snow horizontal, and changing merely cold to biting cold, bearable to unbearable. At the appointed rendezvous, the moon began to slice into Earth’s shadow, looking as if it had lost control over its phasing. By totality an hour later, clouds had reappeared, and it wasn’t until 11:15 that I had my first good glimpse of the eclipsed moon. It was bright, about the same as the planet Venus, but spread over the area of the moon--brighter near the four o’clock position, nearest to the limb of the shadow and darkest around 10 o’clock where the moon was deepest into the Earth’s umbra. At best, from the standpoint of color, the moon was a grayish-to-brownish red, more readily visible to the unaided eye than through binoculars. The brightest regions appeared cream. As the moon continued to transit Earth’s shadow, the lightest zone swung around the bottom of the moon’s limb to the 7:30 position. There about 12:20 a.m. the thinnest slice of bright, like a growing smile began to radiate outward and thicken. This signaled the end of totality and was probably the most visually simulating moment of the eclipse. Except for this radiant slice of bright, the rest of the moon appeared cream-colored with dull reddish-orange hues near the upper right. As the smile widened to a grin, the portion of the moon still in eclipse darkened, the eye’s response to the increasing contrast of light levels. A new day had dawned more than a half hour ago. It was time for bed, with the beginning of another school day beckoning just five hours into the future. When I awoke at 5:30 a.m., the landscape was bathed in brilliant moonlight, long shadows of my house and nearby trees sprawled outward, frozen to the blue white of the fresh snow pack. The moon had emerged victorious from its short interlude of darkness with the Earth's shadow. It was in the west now, a brilliant orb through the small window in my front door, ready to rest until the evening’s dusk.

Allentown School District Planetarium


Dan’s Camera City

Total Eclipse of the Moon Party


Rational for canceling: There were four basic reasons why this event was canceled: (1) safety of the participants, particularly the student volunteers, (2) blowing snow which could ruin telescopic equipment, (3) high wind chill index, and (4) unfavorable sky conditions. Estimates of being able to view any portion of the eclipse ranged from 0% to 20%. A dry wedge of air in the low pressure system seemed to present some hope that sky conditions could turn to partly cloudy by early evening. However, satellite data regarding the water content in this area did not support the visual image. It appears as if skies will remain mostly cloudy overnight, with the possibility of some clearing by 4:00 a.m. If during the night weather conditions improve, the moon will be high in the sky during all portions of the eclipse and easily visible from urban, as well as rural locations. Use binoculars to enhance your view and your enjoyment of this event. Please note the times of the various segments of the lunar eclipse given in the
diagram below. Thanks for your understanding.

Directions  |   Diagram of the Eclipse  |   Skyview During Eclipse 
Bright Lunar Eclipse Predicted  |  Scope the Lunar Eclipse

What: YOU’RE INVITED to observe January’s total lunar eclipse through telescopes with friends and family. PARTICIPANTS ARE URGED TO BRING THEIR TELESCOPES so that everyone will have the opportunity of viewing through many different kinds of scopes. updates will be posted at this website and
When: January 20, 2000 starting at 9:00 p.m. and continuing until it is over which is at 1:25 a.m., January 21.
Where: William Allen High School Practice Field, Allentown, just west of J. Birney Crum Stadium -- lower end of the stadium opposite the scoreboard. This is where the July 4th fireworks display occurs. Free in-field parking for people bringing scopes. Participants are asked to contact Richard Bausch at Dan’s Camera City 610-434-2313 or 610-434-8450, ext. 372, or Gary A. Becker at the ASD Planetarium, 610-820-2204.
Why: This total lunar eclipse will be the best one visible from the Lehigh Valley until February 20, 2008. You’ll also get the chance to look through many different kinds of telescopes focused on Earth’s nearest neighbor as it slips into the shadow of our planet. The moon’s colorations during totality can vary from browns to reds to brick reds to yellow-reds depending upon atmospheric clarity. Since the dust from the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo has settled, astronomers are predicting a colorful event that will be amplified by the light-gathering capabilities of telescopes.
Go/No Go: Call 610-434-2313 or 610-820-2204 after 4:00 p.m. on January 20 to ensure that the event is a go! Information will also be posted at this website and
Arrive: Set up time for people bringing telescopes is between 9-10 p.m. The main event starts promptly at 10:01 p.m. We ask that you stay until at least the start of totality which occurs at 11:05 p.m., but you’ll probably want to stay longer because this is when the eclipse really becomes interesting.
Dress: Dress warmly. Layer your clothing. Make sure that your head, hands, and feet are protected. Bring a warm drink along and a flashlight. It is illegal to have alcoholic beverages on District property.

Where is J. Birney Crum Stadium?

North/East/West of Allentown: Take Route 22, exiting at 15th St. Proceed south towards town for approximately 1-1/2 miles past Trexler Middle School (left) and the Armory (right) to Linden St. If you cross Hamilton, you have gone one block too far. Turn right onto Linden and proceed past William Allen High School. J. Birney Crum Stadium is on the right at the bottom of the hill. Park on the street. If you are bringing a telescope, turn right immediately beyond the Stadium and then left at the ticket booth to gain access to the Allen practice field. See the picture below looking east up Linden St. You will be coming down Linden.

South/North of Allentown: Northbound on I-78, exit at Lehigh St. Bear right onto Lehigh inbound towards the city. If you’re coming southbound on 78, bear left onto Lehigh St. at the light at the bottom of the exit ramp. Pass under the highway towards town. At the Parkway Shopping Center bear left at the light and proceed over the Little Lehigh River (one mile), uphill past the WMCA to Hamilton St. The Hotel Traylor is on your right. The next block is Linden St. Turn left onto Linden and proceed past William Allen High School. J. Birney Crum Stadium is on the right at the bottom of the hill. Park on the street. If you are bringing a telescope, turn right immediately past the Stadium and then left at the ticket booth to gain access to the Allen practice field. See the picture below looking east up Linden St. You will be coming down Linden.

Entrance to J. Birney Crum Stadium
Use the western entrance to J. Birney Crum Stadium. At the ticket booth, turn left onto the Allen High School practice field. If you bring a telescope you'll be able to park here or drive onto the field if the ground is frozen. Remember to bring a flashlight. Exterior lighting will be turned off at 9:30 p.m.

The Observing Field
Parking for individuals bringing telescopes will be in front of the goalpost. Participants will be able to set up their telescopes on the playing field. Lavatories will be available nearby. Thanks are extended to Keith R. Falko, Allen High Principal, and Scott Cooperman, Allen Athletic Director, for their cooperation and enthusiasm in supporting this event.

Boys Locker Room
If you get cold while observing, the boy's and the girl's locker rooms will be open for a break.


176   JANUARY 9, 2000:     Bright Lunar Eclipse Predicted
A total lunar eclipse will occur during the late evening hours of Thursday, January 20th into the morning of the 21st. Several circumstances make this disappearing act of the moon into the Earth’s shadow particularly noteworthy. One is that the moon will be nearly overhead, allowing the entire event to be visible if Valley weather conditions permit. Secondly, the obscuring dust from the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines has finally settled, so this should help to create a bright eclipse. It all begins with the moon entering the Earth’s penumbra at 9:03 p.m. EST. However, don’t look for any discernible effects until about 9:30-9:45 p.m. During these initial aspects of the eclipse, an observer on the moon would watch the Earth slowly covering the sun. The penumbra is the secondary shadow of the Earth and will make the moon appear dusky as 10 p.m. draws near. At 10:01 p.m. the moon enters Earth’s true shadow, the umbra. The umbra’s disk-like smudge will sweep across the moon during the next 64 minutes causing it to dim to about 1/7000th of its full moon brilliance. Totality starts at 11:05 p.m. and lasts for a leisurely hour and 17 minutes. This is when the moon could take on colorations from browns to reds, oranges, and yellows. It all depends on the meteorological scene along the perimeter of Earth’s shadow. Mid-eclipse, when the moon’s reddened glow should appear the most subdued, is at 11:44 p.m. Totality ends at 12:22 a.m. Friday, and the moon leaves the umbra and penumbra at 1:25 a.m. and 2:24 a.m. respectively. Read ahead at the web address below. Here you’ll find a diagram of the major circumstances of this eclipse.

Eclipse Circumstances

177   JANUARY 16, 2000:     Scope the Lunar Eclipse
The total lunar eclipse which will be visible this Thursday evening and Friday morning could be the brightest eclipse of this decade and a spectacular visual experience through small telescopes and binoculars. See last week’s StarWatch at the Net address below. The moon enters the Earth’s shadow at 10:01 p.m.; totality commences at 11:05; mid-totality 11:44; end of totality, 12:22 a.m. Friday; and last contact with the Earth’s shadow at 1:25 a.m. Lunar eclipses occur when the moon slips into the shadow of the Earth. They are not in any way dangerous to view with the eye or any type of optical aid. If the full moon can be observed without any danger to the eye, so can the full moon entering the Earth’s shadow. So here is another opportunity to put your telescope, binoculars, or spotting scope to good use to add that extra dimension of clarity and beauty to this happening. Lunar eclipses are not high magnification events. Small telescopes used at 20-40 power, will give truly spectacular views of the entire moon as the umbra sweeps across it. With the wider viewing fields offered by binoculars, you’ll easily manage to spot M44, the Beehive star cluster in the constellation of Cancer, the Crab. During mid-totality it will be located a little less than a field of view to the moon’s left. Wide-angle binoculars should be able to capture both the eclipse and the Beehive in the same field. If you have a telescope with a larger mirror or lens, say 6-8 inches, you may want to use 100-200 power to observe the Earth’s shadow actually engulfing craters in a steady march towards totality. Then during totality impress your friends with a view of the Beehive. An on-line eclipse map can be found at the web site below.

Lunar Eclipse Map

178   JANUARY 23, 2000:     Venus Moon Conjunction
A beautiful sight awaits those individuals who plan to be early risers on Wednesday morning, February 2. The moon which just rendezvoused with Earth’s shadow last week is on the move again, heading for a close encounter (conjunction) with the third brightest object of the sky, Venus. It’s not going to be an easy sighting for residents of the Lehigh Valley, but it will be beautiful if sky conditions are clear. You may recall that Venus was a prominent morning object during the fall months, especially if you were headed for work prior to a half hour before sunrise. Then Venus was high in the ESE. You couldn’t miss it. It seemed to peak by late October. Afterwards, you should have noticed Venus gradually getting lower in the sky. Here are the reasons why this was happening. You left for work at the same time each morning, but sunrises were getting later. Venus’ angular distance from the sun was shrinking. However, the main reason was Venus’ orbital plane which is almost the same as the Earth. So as the sun headed for winter solstice on December 22, and got lower in the sky, so did Venus. In fact, since Venus is west of the sun right now, its position is basically where the sun was at winter solstice. Venus rises later and is lower in the sky. This is why the Venus-moon conjunction on Wednesday morning, February 2, will be only 10 degrees above the southeastern horizon, 45 minutes before sunrise. There will be plenty of competition in the southeast from the sun, but not enough to drown out the brilliance of a paper thin crescent moon and a brilliant "star," Venus just below and to the moon’s left. Look southeast between 6:00-6:30 a.m. for the most spectacular views.

179   JANUARY 30, 2000:     First Light
Your new telescope which was under the tree just a few weeks ago is begging to be used, and there are some very nice celestial treats which are just waiting for a clear winter evening and eager eyes. You’ll find a map to go along with this StarWatch at the web address below. Put your telescope outside or in an unheated garage about an hour before you start your observing session. This will give your telescope some time to stabilize thermally, allowing the optics to readjust to the cooler outdoor temperatures. Look south at about 7:00 p.m. slightly above mid-sky, and you will see lots of bright objects to entice you and your scope for its first light. Just to the right of south is Jupiter, the brightest starlike object in the sky. Twenty power will easily reveal the Galilean satellites, Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto which Galileo first viewed in early 1610. Saturn is to Jupiter’s left, considerably fainter, but still impressive, and will easily show its rings without much magnification. Continue to the left and the three unmistakable stars of Orion’s Belt will be observed. Under the belt appear to be three faint stars, Orion’s sword. View the middle star to reveal the wispy stellar nursery called the Orion Nebula or M42. The ultraviolet light from the stars of the Trapezium in the center are causing the gases to glow. Follow Orion’s belt up past the "V" which forms the head of Taurus the Bull, and you’ll discover, M45 the Pleiades or Seven Sisters. They glow faintly to the unaided eye, but under low power the cluster appears like blue diamonds sparkling against a black sky. When your telescope is taken indoors, simply leave the dew that collects on the tube and lenses to evaporate overnight.

Winter Group

January Star Map

January Moon Phase Calendar