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A Total Lunar Eclipse

Public Observing

Did you get to see the lunar eclipse this past January right before sunrise? It was tough to see. The Moon was low in the west, and we didn’t get to view the entire eclipse because the Moon set before the eclipse finished. Folks out in the western U.S. got a much better chance to see it than we did since the Moon was higher in the sky for them than it was for us. But on January 20, 2019, if the weather is clear, we’ll be treated to a great lunar show in the sky from start to finish!

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are perfectly aligned. Sunlight falls on Earth, and Earth casts its shadow into space. The Moon’s orbit is tilted a bit with respect to the Earth, so as the Moon orbits Earth, usually the Moon passes a bit above or below the shadow. But, when the Moon passes through the Earth’s shadow, we see the Moon turn brown, red, orange, or gray. This is called a lunar eclipse. If you were standing on the surface of the Moon, the Earth would appear to eclipse the Sun.

The next lunar eclipse visible from the Chicago area will be on January 20, 2019—a Sunday night. The Moon will be in the eastern sky when the eclipse starts at 8:36 pm CST. As it begins to pass into the lighter part of the Earth’s shadow, the color of the Moon will start to change from bright light gray to a progressively deeper tan. Starting at 9:33 pm CST, the Moon will begin to encounter the darker part of the Earth’s shadow and look a bit like a cookie with a bite taken out of it. At 10:41 pm CST, the Moon will be fully within the Earth’s shadow, looking dark red or dark gray. This is called totality. Totality ends at 11:43 pm CST, and the Earth exits the darker part of the Earth’s shadow at 12:50 am CST on January 21. The Moon fully exits the lighter part of the Earth’s shadow at 1:48 am CST on January 21.

If it is clear out and you are away from tall buildings and trees, you should have no trouble spotting the eclipse. The Moon will be high in the sky to the east, southeast, and south. Remember: It will be January, so if it is clear out, it may be VERY cold. Don’t forget to bundle up warmly and grab some hot cocoa or coffee!

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QuoVadis February Adler Staff Star

Adler Staff Star: Meet Quo!

Behind the Scenes

Quo Raines
Exhibit Maintenance Technician

What do you enjoy the most about working at the Adler?
What I enjoy most about working at the Adler (besides the everyday interactions with guests), is the opportunity to showcase my talents and dedicated hard work via exhibit galleries, pieces, and displays for all the world to see. I often can’t wait to see the interest and excitement of visitors when they walk into a gallery or interact with anything that the exhibits team or myself have worked on.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at the Adler? (We heard you’ve been at the Adler for 20 years this January… how exciting!)
I have a ton of good memories here at the Adler: the opening of the “Sky pavilion,” renovation of “Mission Moon,” former Presidents’ motorcades shutting down the campus, famous celebrities dropping by, the 2017 Solar Eclipse Party, reuniting lost parents with their kids, and running into some teens I mentored as kids when I was a teen. All that to say, nothing compares to the time I encountered a guest at the prism doors whom was cradling the book “QUOVADIS” in her arms. We both looked at each other as if we had saw a Supernova explosion. What are the chances? Only at the Adler!

Why, in your opinion, is space freaking awesome?
Space is freaking awesome simply because of what we already have uncovered and what we have yet to discover in the vastness of space.

What’s your favorite place to eat in Chicago?
If not in my own kitchen where I often prepare some of the most delicious meals in town, I really enjoy eating at “Fire Jerk” and “La Concina Jalisciense” for a quick bite when I’m out.

Who is your favorite space scientist?
Mae Jemison, as a youngster on the “honor rolI” I was invited to a rally, which was to welcome her back home from her space flight in 1992. At the time she was a rock star and hometown hero. She engaged and inspired us to become interested, and understand the significance of math and science. Years later as a teen, I would continue that pledge and joined a community based organization “Science Linkages In the Community” in order to help inner cityyouth understand the importance of math and science. Can you guess where our first field trip was to? Yes the Adler.

If you had the opportunity to take a 10-year-trip to Mars, would you do it? Why or why not?
No. Simply because I am afraid of flying and I wouldn’t want to leave this GREAT city or our AWESOME planet behind.

Historic Imagining of Moon Travel- Taken from the Adler vault

A Conveyance to This Other World

Pedro Raposo Collections

LUNAR MOUNTAINS AND VALLEYS

In November 1609, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) set out to study the Moon using a recent invention he had heard about a few months prior, and had been playing with ever since: the telescope. According to the principles of Aristotelian cosmology, which still prevailed at the time, the celestial bodies (including the Sun, the Moon, the planets, and the fixed stars) revolved around a central and static Earth, attached to crystalline spheres. They were all supposed to be pristine and unchangeable. However, what Galileo saw with a 20-powered telescope made by him when he pointed it at the Moon was not an immaculate orb. It was rather a world with surface features that, according to Galileo, looked like the mountains and valleys on Earth. Galileo was not the first to observe our satellite through a telescope, but he caused a stir when he published his findings in a short illustrated book titled Sidereus Nuncius (“The Starry Messenger,” or “The Starry Message”) in March 1610. It was also in this book that Galileo announced his discovery that Jupiter has satellites. All of this seemed to contradict the old ideas about the cosmos that had prevailed for almost two thousand years. After all, the Moon was a place just like the Earth, and that was likely the case with the planets as well. And if those are all actual places, then we should in principle be able to go there.

THE MAN IN THE MOONE

Galileo’s telescopic discoveries played an important role in the debates around the idea developed by Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) decades earlier—that the Earth is but a planet orbiting a central Sun along with the other planets. Scholars and writers who similarly to Galileo embraced the Copernican system were enthused by the new telescopic findings. Some set out to imagine what it would be like to travel to the other worlds that make up the Solar System, and the Moon was an obvious first destination. Around 1608, Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), known for the laws of planetary motion with his name, wrote novel titled Somnium (“The Dream”), in which he describes imaginary trips to the Moon with the aid of spirits and where he also speculates about the appearance of the Earth and celestial phenomena as observed from the Moon. Somnium was published posthumously in 1634, by the initiative of Kepler’s son. Four years later, another fictional work containing reveries about space travel was published: Francis Godwin’s The Man in The Moone. Here a character named Domingo Gonsales (who is also presented as the author of the book) travels to our satellite pulled by a flock of robust birds called “gansas”. This may not sound much better than spirits, but Godwin had nonetheless taken a step further by addressing a fundamental issue: what kind of physical means could release us from the Earth’s gravitational attraction (which would be much better understood a few decades later with the works of Isaac Newton) and potentially take us to our satellite.

“A CONVEYANCE TO THIS OTHER WORLD”

While Kepler, Godwin, and other 17th-century writers used fiction to muse about lunar journeys, John Wilkins (1614-1672) took the subject more seriously. Wilkins was a mechanical-minded clergyman who also supported the Copernican system. He played an important role in the establishment of the Royal Society of London, a key institution for the emergence of modern science. In 1638 (the same year of The Man in the Moone), Wilkins published The Discovery of a World in the Moone, an essay where he discusses the habitability of our satellite and analyzes possible ways of travelling there. He would expand on these ideas in a subsequent edition of the essay and in another book titled Mathematical Magick (1648). Wilkins analyzed four ways of travelling to the Moon: with the aid of spirits or birds (as in the fictional works of Kepler and Godwin); with artificial wings; and finally, by riding a vehicle he called the Flying Chariot. The latter would be propelled either directly by its passengers, or by clockwork springs. It was Wilkins’s favorite option. Summarizing the ideas presented in The Discovery…, he wrote that, “it may be possible for some of our posterity to find out a conveyance to this other world; and if there be inhabitants there, have commerce with them.” At least regarding the first part, Wilkins was certainly right—it just took three centuries of social and technological change, the appropriate spacecraft (or types of flying chariots and propulsion if you will), and above all, the same daring imagination to approach the subject that he and his aforementioned contemporaries had.

Moon rising over the Adler Planetarium

Once in a Blue Moon

Mark Hammergren Astronomy

Cover Photo Credit: Chris Smith

For decades NASA’s plans for human space exploration have focused on Mars as the preeminent target. However, in December 2017, the Trump administration issued a national policy directive through its freshly reconstituted Space Council calling for a return to the Moon—not just with Apollo-style landings, but “for long-term exploration and utilization.” Over the next couple decades, NASA’s efforts may focus on the establishment of a lunar base in the style of Antarctic research centers or the International Space Station—continuously staffed but relying on supplies from Earth.But there are those who look to the Moon as a place where humanity will found an independent, self-sufficient existence.

The rationale goes beyond George Mallory’s famous quip about his reason for climbing Mount Everest:“Because it’s there.” Instead of being a goal in and of itself, lunar exploration is seen as a path to the extraction of valuable and even unique resources. Perhaps chief among these is helium-3, a light, non-radioactive isotope of helium that is implanted into the lunar surface via the solar wind and could be readily mined from the lunar soil (or regolith). Helium-3 is a potential source of clean nuclear fusion energy once such reactor technology is developed.

Water is another resource that is plentiful on the Moon—surprisingly so, given the stark, airless environment, which is subject nearly everywhere to enormous temperature extremes. In addition to ice deposits found in permanently shadowed (and thus extremely cold) polar craters, vast stretches of the lunar surface have been found to contain tiny concentrations of water outgassed from the Moon’s interior or generated in interactions with the solar wind. Water could be conventionally mined from the poles or simply baked out of the lunar regolith by roving, robotic ovens. As a resource, water is incredibly useful for several reasons: as liquid for human consumption, broken into its constituent elements for oxygen for breathing, and for the combination of hydrogen and oxygen as rocket fuel.

Even more ambitious visionaries see a future in which human existence on the Moon is not limited to isolated, enclosed habitats, but one in which the whole environment of the Moon has been altered or “terraformed” into a small version of Earth. The generation of an oxygen atmosphere thick enough to support life could be accomplished by impacting hundreds of comets the size of Halley’s Comet onto the Moon—a task impossible with current technology, but perfectly feasible given straightforward physics. Although the Moon’s low gravity means that oxygen atoms would escape into space far more readily than from Earth and any atmosphere would only be temporary, the timescale for such loss could still extend into millions of years. This is short on geological scales, explaining the Moon’s current airless state, but long in personal human terms.

Indeed, there is evidence that the Moon may have possessed a short- lived atmosphere billions of years ago. Several rocks recovered from the Moon by Apollo 16 astronauts were found to contain bits of natural iron that had somehow rusted—a process requiring the presence of oxygen and liquid water. Models of cometary impacts and volcanic activity suggest that temporary lunar atmospheres may have been formed many times over the past four billion years.

Whatever the scope of future human activity on the Moon, it is likely that someday we will return, and it may just be that this time it will be forever.

Catch a total lunar eclipse in Chicago this January!

Adler Skywatch: January 2019

Karen Donnelly Astronomy, Public Observing

Bright stars and planets, meteors, an eclipse, a “Supermoon,” and a close approach by the Sun are all expected during January 2019.

In evening twilight this month, the planet Mars is high in the southern skies. The night of the 12th, it appears near a waxing crescent Moon. Each evening Mars appears higher in the sky than the night before; but it also gets slightly dimmer each night, as it moves further from Earth after its close approach last summer. By about 10:00 pm CT, Mars is very low in the west.

The rest of the month’s planetary viewing occurs during early-morning darkness. The two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, are above the southeast horizon by 6:00 am CT. Venus is the brighter of the two—though both are brighter than any of the stars in the night sky. From the 1st through the 24th, Venus appears higher than Jupiter. But on the 25th and 26th they appear at about the same altitude. By the 28th Jupiter appears higher than Venus. A waning crescent Moon appears between the two planets on the 31st.

The planets Mercury and Saturn appear so close to the Sun this month that they are difficult if not impossible to view.

Perihelion, when the Sun is closest to Earth for the year, occurs on the 2nd, at 11:19 pm CT. At perihelion, Earth is about 91.4 million miles from the Sun, which is about 3 million miles closer than it is at its furthest, which occurs in early July.

Also in January, the annual Quadrantids Meteor Shower peaks the night of the 3rd and morning of the 4th. From very dark, very clear skies, a peak of about 40 meteors per hour is expected. This year the waning crescent Moon doesn’t rise until morning twilight on the 4th, so it won’t interfere with the sky’s darkness. The Quadrantids appear to radiate from the constellation Boötes, which rises in the northeast around midnight Central time—but the meteors can appear anywhere in the sky. No special equipment is needed—just dress warmly for the weather, and look up!

The month’s biggest astronomical event is the night of the 20th, when a total lunar eclipse is visible from most of North and South America. In the Chicago area, the partial phase of the eclipse starts about 9:34 pm Central time, as the Moon slips into Earth’s shadow. Totality, when the Moon is entirely within Earth’s shadow, begins at 10:41 pm. During totality the Moon is likely to turn a deep reddish color. Totality ends at 11:43 pm; and the partial phase ends at 12:50 am on the 21st. Look now while you can, because this is the last total lunar eclipse anywhere until May 2021.

The 20th is also the night of 2019’s first “Supermoon”—a Full or New Moon near perigee, the point in the Moon’s orbit when it’s closest to Earth. A Supermoon often looks slightly larger than a usual Moon. This year the February and March Full Moons will also be considered Supermoons.

New Moon: January 5th
First Quarter Moon: January 14th
Full Moon: January 20th
Last Quarter Moon: January 27th

Please note: these descriptions are for the Chicago area, using Central time.

Header photo credit: DanielaC173 on Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Image of moon

A Total Lunar Eclipse

Michelle Nichols Public Observing

Did you get to see the lunar eclipse this past January right before sunrise? It was tough to see. The Moon was low in the west, and we didn’t get to view the entire eclipse because the Moon set before the eclipse finished. Folks out in the western U.S. got a much better chance to see it than we did since the Moon was higher in the sky for them than it was for us. But on January 20, 2019, if the weather is clear, we’ll be treated to a great lunar show in the sky from start to finish!

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are perfectly aligned. Sunlight falls on Earth, and Earth casts its shadow into space. The Moon’s orbit is tilted a bit with respect to the Earth, so as the Moon orbits Earth, usually the Moon passes a bit above or below the shadow. But, when the Moon passes through the Earth’s shadow, we see the Moon turn brown, red, orange, or gray. This is called a lunar eclipse. If you were standing on the surface of the Moon, the Earth would appear to eclipse the Sun.

The next lunar eclipse visible from the Chicago area will be on January 20, 2019—a Sunday night. The Moon will be in the eastern sky when the eclipse starts at 8:36 pm CST. As it begins to pass into the lighter part of the Earth’s shadow, the color of the Moon will start to change from bright light gray to a progressively deeper tan. Starting at 9:33 pm CST, the Moon will begin to encounter the darker part of the Earth’s shadow and look a bit like a cookie with a bite taken out of it. At 10:41 pm CST, the Moon will be fully within the Earth’s shadow, looking dark red or dark gray. This is called totality. Totality ends at 11:43 pm CST, and the Earth exits the darker part of the Earth’s shadow at 12:50 am CST on January 21. The Moon fully exits the lighter part of the Earth’s shadow at 1:48 am CST on January 21.

If it is clear out and you are away from tall buildings and trees, you should have no trouble spotting the eclipse. The Moon will be high in the sky to the east, southeast, and south. Remember: It will be January, so if it is clear out, it may be VERY cold. Don’t forget to bundle up warmly and grab some hot cocoa or coffee!

Jim Lovell

Dream Big

Annie Vedder Behind the Scenes

It takes a great deal of confidence to make our visions reality. I understand this firsthand because, like so many people, I’ve had ambitious ideas, but had no idea how to make them come to fruition.

In 2014, I had the opportunity to update the exhibit about Captain Jim Lovell’s life and contributions to getting humanity to the Moon and back. Working on this exhibit would be a massive opportunity for me professionally, and the pressure was on. At the time, it felt like a daunting task with limitless possibilities, but no clear way to begin. I took inspiration from the man I was researching and decided to take action on my crazy ideas and not to fear failure because failure is part of the process. It would take a year to complete the project, and there were many ups and downs along the way; but in April 2015, ideas that existed only as dreams and crazy ideas became a reality. Mission Moon opened to the public.

Captain Lovell has inspired generations to look up, explore, and achieve the impossible. To commemorate his 90th birthday, we updated Mission Moon by launching Letters to Lovell. We asked you to share how Captain Lovell’s story has encouraged you to pursue your dreams and find new frontiers to explore in a letter-writing campaign. So far, you have shared your dreams and aspirations parallel to Captain Lovell’s boyhood dream of becoming a rocket engineer, launching rockets, and becoming an astronaut. Perhaps people dismissed Captain Lovell’s ambitions as boyhood daydreams—and there indeed was a lot of uncertainty—but like so many of us, Captain Lovell’s drive and willingness to act on opportunities as they presented themselves helped him make his dreams a reality.

What are your dreams? Does your future career currently exist, or will you need to forge a path and open new frontiers? Will you need to engineer the ideas that only exist in your imagination?

Change and infinite possibilities are on the horizon. The way we live, work and relate to one another will be fostered by you. Take inspiration from Captain Lovell: Dream big and don’t let the fear of failure stop you from making your dreams a reality. You will reinvent the world, again and again, and again. Thank you, Captain Lovell, for this amazing legacy.

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