Community

Celestial Observers share the sky

Tips for seeing this Sunday's lunar eclipse
May 15, 2022 at 5:00 a.m.
Cooper Clark lifts his son Tyson, 5, up to look at the half moon through the telescope at Boulevard Park on May 8. Every half moon, the Whatcom Association of Celestial Observers sets up their telescopes at the popular park to give the community the opportunity to see the moon up close.
Cooper Clark lifts his son Tyson, 5, up to look at the half moon through the telescope at Boulevard Park on May 8. Every half moon, the Whatcom Association of Celestial Observers sets up their telescopes at the popular park to give the community the opportunity to see the moon up close. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

By HAILEY HOFFMAN
Staff Reporter

On a clear evening when the moon sits in its first quarter phase, parkgoers will find a pack of telescopes covering a section of the north side of Boulevard Park. With it, laughs of delight and quiet comments of "Oh, wow!" can be heard from children and adults as they peer into the scopes to see the moon and its vast craters up close.

Members of the Whatcom Association of Celestial Observers stand around next to their scopes, waiting to answer questions and keep the scopes in focus. Each first quarter moon, the local club sets up at the popular park at around 6:30 p.m. with two goals in mind: to share the stars, moon and sky with the community and to make astronomy fun. After a pandemic-related hiatus, the 30-year-old club is at it once again. 

"The thing that's kept me involved with the club, and a lot of the members will tell you the same thing, if you're around down there at the park for very long, you get to see kids look through to see the moon or the sun. You can see the look on their faces when they see something like that for the first time," president Justin Katsinis said. "Being able to provide that for the public is one of our core values and things we enjoy doing."  

photo  A lunar eclipse shines over Bellingham in January 2019, as shot from Shuksan Middle School. (Photo courtesy Justin Katsinis)  


The observers will be out again Sunday evening, hoping to catch a glimpse of "Super Flower Blood Moon."

This special May full moon will be at its closest point to the earth – earning the "super" title – and will be eclipsed by the shadow of the earth, turning it a deep red, providing the "blood" in the name.

In Whatcom County, the moon will rise at 8:39 p.m., and the eclipse will be visible from about 9:11 p.m. until 9:50 p.m., Katsinis said. Unfortunately, the county is a little too far west to see the full eclipse. Locals will be able to see a partial eclipse and maybe a sliver of a red shadow on the moon.

"The nice thing is it's the moon. It'll be big and bright. You can see it anywhere," Katsinis said. 

This is only viewable, of course, if the mighty gray blanket of clouds decides to part for the moonrise.

photo  Vice president Sam Cooke recalibrates his solar telescope to track the path of the sun as it sets. The solar telescope allows viewers to safely see solar flares and other activity up close. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)  


But it's not the only opportunity for local stargazers to connect with others. The approximately two dozen astronomers in the group host monthly meetings and schedule different public and private events throughout the year for star viewing.

"Once you start looking up, it's hard to stop," Katsinis said. 

They frequent Artist Point and other spots in Whatcom County in the summertime for clear views of the Milky Way, planets, nebulas and whatever else the sky hides from the naked eye. 

When special astronomical events happen, like eclipses or the annual Perseid meteor shower, the group hosts star parties.

Currently, the Celestial Observers are trying to plan educational events with the Whatcom County Library System to share more information about the stars with the community.

All information on the Whatcom Association of Celestial Observers and their events is available online at whatcomastronomy.com. They also post regular updates to their Facebook page.

Have a news tip? Email newstips@cascadiadaily.com or Call/Text 360-922-3092

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