The public is invited to a free program at Augustana College's John Deere Planetarium on Jan. 20 in conjunction with a total eclipse of the moon.
The planetarium will be open from 9:30-11:30 p.m., with indoor and outdoor programs in the planetarium, the Carl Gamble Observatory and the building's grounds.
According to Dr. Lee Carkner, director of the planetarium and professor of physics, a lunar eclipse occurs when the alignment of the Earth, sun and moon is such that the Earth blocks the sunlight that normally makes the moon shine.
"During the eclipse, the moon is slowly covered and then uncovered by the Earth’s shadow," he said. "The totally eclipsed moon is an eerie and awe-inspiring faint red disk."
With a telescope, or even the naked eye, viewers can observe the shadow’s progress across the moon's craters, highlands and the Maria, or dark portions of the moon.
Dr. Carkner will be joined by other Augustana faculty and students in leading the programs. In addition to the 14-inch reflector in the Carl Gamble Observatory and telescopes on the grounds, a planetarium show on the wonders of the night sky will be offered.
The Fryxell Geology Museum, which features one of the best collections of minerals and fossils in the Midwest, also will be open. Highlights in the museum include a wall of fluorescent rocks, and casts of a Tyrannosaurus rex skull, and a complete 22-foot long skeleton of Cryolophosaurus, a large crested carnivorous dinosaur discovered in Antarctica by now retired Augustana professor Dr. William Hammer.
The observatory is unheated so visitors should dress according to the weather. In the event of cloudy skies, the planetarium presentation will still be offered.
Dr. Lee Carkner, 309-794-7318.