A moon eclipse at the obelisk

BLUE MOON: The southern skies will be treated to two full moons in January 2018. Picture: Peter Stoop

BLUE MOON: The southern skies will be treated to two full moons in January 2018. Picture: Peter Stoop

NEWCASTLE’s astronomy geeks will be craning their necks and telescopes on January 31 to view a total lunar eclipse. 

Scott Alder, of the Newcastle Astronomical Society, has been an astronomy enthusiast since “infants school” when his parents bought him his first telescope –  a Tasco, with a four and a half inch reflector, purchased from K-Mart, Waratah. 

“I was up at 3 or 4’clock in the morning looking at the planets,” Mr Alder said. “It was just amazing, wondering how far away they were and what else was out there.” 

His interest really peaked early one morning when he spotted something in the sky from the backyard of his Wallsend family home.

“I still remember at 4 o’clock one morning looking at one particular orangey looking star, and finding out it was the planet Saturn,” he said. 

“I had discovered it by chance, and I was really, really happy. I was looking at its rings, and I would look at Jupiter and see moons orbiting.

“It was just fascinating.” 

That fascination has never died and he now owns a 10 inch diameter telescope. 

“You can see galaxies and all sorts of things,” he said. 

For the best stargazing, he often travels to Gloucester to avoid light pollution.

“That’s where you can really see the splendour of the sky,” he said. 

On January 31, Mr Alder will bring his telescope, with others also being set up, to the Obelisk in Wolfe Street, Newcastle, for the total moon eclipse.  

“The moon will be very full and very bright, but it passes into the shadow of the earth, so it will go a very dark red colour ... it  will appear a blood red colour and that will last a couple of hours,” Mr Alder said. 

“The eclipse will be total from about 11.51pm and it will last through to about 1.07am.

“They are fairly rare, they might happen every two or three years, they are not that common.

“This event will be visible on one whole hemisphere of the earth.

“It will be right up high in the sky, so it will be perfectly positioned for us.”

For home viewing binoculars will be suitable.

“A good set of binoculars, you’ll be able to see quite a bit with that,” he said. 

The total eclipse of the moon will be the second full moon in January, making it a blue moon. 

The Newcastle Astronomical Society has about 50 members. It meets monthly at the University of Newcastle where talks from guest speakers are given, members also give presentations and the club hosts other astronomy events.