OCOTILLO – Hundreds of stargazers were in for a treat and the Imperial Valley Desert Museum was the place to be Sunday evening when a super moon combined with a blood moon lunar eclipse took place creating a rare astronomical phenomenon.
Over five hundred people from as far as San Diego, Yuma and Indio made their way to the museum where the lower altitude and the clear weather played key roles for a spectacular view.
Although the eclipse was visible with the naked eye, telescopes and binoculars were available for those who wanted to view the moon from a closer vantage point.
“I had been waiting for this day, it seemed like forever,” said Jay Paterson, a San Diego resident. “I love studying about the universe and its mysteries.”
“Today I brought my telescope to capture this once in a lifetime experience, and with the clear night skies, I can see it all,” he said excitedly.
The Imperial Valley Desert Museum is a new facility in the heart of the Yuha Desert and houses Native American and historic artifacts collected from all over the Imperial Valley.
Society Board Member Steve Benton gave a fifteen minute presentation explaining step by step, how an eclipse is formed and the reasons it appears to have the red glow.
“We had an amazing turnout tonight. There are so many people that I am giving my presentation twice so everyone can have the opportunity to learn about the eclipse,” said Benton.
A super moon occurs when the moon’s elliptical swings closest to the earth. Since the year 1900 to date, there have only been five super moon eclipses (in 1910, 1928, 1946, 1964 and 1982). The next super moon eclipse will not occur until 2033.
Sunday’s blood moon was the last of a series of four that began on April 15, 2014. This pattern is called a tetrad — a series of four consecutive lunar eclipses, with six full moons in between, and no intervening partial lunar eclipses. The last tetrad occurred in 1967.
“My husband loves this stuff, so he gathered everyone and here we are ready to see the eclipse,” said Khnah Nguyen, a Mira Mesa resident.
Nguyen was accompanied by her husband, Michael, and 26 other friends and family members who caravanned in five vehicles from Mira Mesa in San Diego County.
Upon arrival at the event, guests had the opportunity to purchase tickets for a telescope that was later raffled in the evening.
Nathan Ostermann, 10, from El Centro was the winner. “When they called out the numbers I didn’t believe it, I thought it would be impossible for me to win,” said Nathan.
The total eclipse lasted a total of one hour and 12 minutes exceeding the last eclipse in April which lasted only four minutes, explained Benton.
“We are astonished and pleased by number of visitors we had today,” said Anne Morgan, MLIS Archivist/Head Curator. “I wish we had this many visitors all of the time.”
As with all lunar eclipses, the region of visibility for Sunday’s blood moon lunar eclipse encompassed more than half of the planet. Nearly one billion people in the Western Hemisphere, nearly 1.5 billion throughout much of Europe and Africa, and another 500 million in western Asia were able to watch as the Harvest Full Moon became a shadow of its former self and transformed into a red-looking ball.
The museum is opened free of charge Wednesday through Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.[envira-gallery id=”65113”]