Total Lunar Eclipse Sept. 27/28

In the late hours of September 27 and the early hours of September 28, there will be a total eclipse of the Moon. Such an eclipse occurs when the Moon moves directly into the darkest part of Earth’s shadow, called the umbra.

You don’t need any special equipment to enjoy a lunar eclipse – just your own eyes will do. If you have some binoculars, then get them out to check out the Moon’s surface features under some of the different lighting conditions.

The image below shows the general stages of the eclipse and there’s also an animation of the Moon’s appearance from Charlottetown. You won’t really notice much happening with the Moon until the partial eclipse starts at 10:07 pm ADT. Then it will appear like a larger and larger bite is being taken out of the Moon. The Moon’s colour will shift to red by the time the total eclipse begins at 11:11 pm ADT. This stage is sometimes referred to as a “blood moon” due to the red colour. Times for the different stages of the total lunar eclipse (note times are in ET so add on one hour for AT)

Times for the different stages of the total lunar eclipse (note times are in EDT so add on one hour for ADT)

The total eclipse phase lasts until 12:23 am ADT, over an hour after it started. So that leaves plenty of time to have a look at the red Moon and take some photos.

There won’t be another total lunar eclipse visible from Charlottetown until 2019, so if the weather permits, it’s worth making a point of seeing this one.


We had a viewing that wasn’t cancelled due to weather!

We had perfectly clear skies (and unseasonably warm temperatures) for our Moon Night which helped to make it a successful event – and the first one in a long while!

Looking through the archive of blog posts, the last successful public viewing we had weather-wise was April of 2014! We did manage to squeak in a few minutes of viewing between clouds in December of 2014, but either way you look at it, our recent Moon Night was the first successful viewing of 2015. That speaks to the challenges of doing astronomy in the quickly changeable PEI weather.

Telescopic view of the Moon captured at the event by UPEI student Hannah Reid on her smartphone.

Telescopic view of the Moon captured by event guest and UPEI student Hannah Reid on her smartphone.

We had five telescopes set-up on the UPEI campus for the event – the Physics Department’s 6-inch Dobsonian (donated to us by the Sidewalk Astronomers of Charlottetown) plus four other telescopes. Keith Cooper, Judith MacNeil, and Jane Vicary with their personal telescopes, and Ryan Casey, a teacher participating in the Scopes for Schools program. Another Scopes for School teacher, Rachelle Arsenault, also came along to lend a hand in telescope operation. And Physics students Dave, Trevor, Cameron, Aidan, Deanna, Andrew, and Phoenix came out to practice using our telescopes, which hopefully means plenty of potential volunteers for our future viewings.

In addition to viewing the Moon, our astronomers aimed their telescopes at Saturn, the Andromeda Galaxy, and some double stars, so the 40-plus visitors got to enjoy all sorts of astronomical sights. It was particularly delightful to hear the exclamations of excitement from some guests who had never looked through a telescope before.

Here’s hoping for more clear-sky nights like this one in the future!

Planetarium Memories

As some of you may remember, UPEI used to have a planetarium.
UPEI Planetarium

UPEI Planetarium

Michelle Cottreau, a UPEI Physics graduate, sent me the photograph below and shared the following memories of her time working at the planetarium.
“I worked there for several years and only have one picture of that time. It wish I had more and some of the inside. It was amazing and the best job I ever had!”
Planetarium staff, summer 1985 (left to right): David Yorston, David Brennan (Manager), Michelle Cottreau, David Wheeler

Planetarium staff, summer 1985 (left to right): David Yorston, David Brennan (Manager), Michelle Cottreau, David Wheeler

“We had several different shows but my favourite was the one we did for young children called “Our Sky Family”. The star projector was nick-named “Jake” and the show began with the sound of snoring. Jake would suddenly wake up and would rise out of the underground well (where the projector was stored) to greet the children and the show began.  They loved it!”

UPDATED: Observe the Moon Night 2015

SaveTheDateWe are once again participating in International Observe the Moon Night on the evening of Saturday, September 19. And this year we hope that the weather actually permits us to see the Moon!

The Moon will be in its waxing crescent phase and will be too low in the sky for our observatory telescope to view. So we’ll be setting up some telescopes on the campus grounds, with local amateur astronomers helping out by bringing their telescopes too. Saturn will also be visible nearby in the sky, so we’ll point some telescopes at it too.

The viewings will take place from 8:00-9:30pm on a service road that is next to the artificial turf field and across the perimeter road from parking lot D (as indicated on the campus map below).EventMap

Viewing may potentially start as early as 7:45pm, but that is conditional on the soccer game at the adjacent field not going into overtime.

This event is weather dependent. If it’s too cloudy to see the Moon, we will have to cancel. This blog post will be updated in the event of a cancellation.

Facebook event:



New Web Course: “Life in the Universe”

Have you ever looked at the night sky and wondered if we’re alone in the universe? If so, our new web course is for you! Physics 151: Life in the Universe is debuting at UPEI for Fall 2015.

In this course, your lessons are provided through the Habitable Worlds courseware – a textbook, movie, video game, lectures, and tutorials all combined in one package. You’ll use simulations to destroy stars, create planets, and explore the ancient Earth, all the while learning about the latest research on worlds within and outside of our solar system. You’ll discuss what you’re learning with your classmates through our forums and help each other learn how to identify which worlds are possible for life (as we know it) to exist on.

There’s no prerequisites necessary for this course and it’s open to students from all programs and faculties. Check out the syllabus and try a demo lesson and if you like what you see, it’s not too late to register as there’s spaces available.