Stansbury Park • Audrey O’Keefe just couldn’t stop smiling.
As the 12-year-old South Jordan girl watched her first lunar eclipse early Tuesday morning, she also peered through telescopes for up-close views of planets such as Jupiter and Mars.
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"I just love astronomy; it’s so fascinating, all of the things out there," Audrey said, using the word "amazing" three times in the same sentence to describe what she was seeing.
She is one of the newest members of the Salt Lake Astronomical Society (SLAS), which staged an eclipse-viewing party at the Stansbury Park Observatory Complex (SPOC), allowing stargazers to watch the moon turn a rusty orange as it moved into the Earth’s shadow.
"For me, events like this, it’s about getting people to look up and appreciate the night sky," said Patrick Wiggins, NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory solar system ambassador to Utah and SLAS member. "We need science people right now more than ever. Events like this inspire the young people and excite the old people."
Three math graduate students from the University of Utah were among the 150 or so people watching the eclipse and various planets at SPOC. It was the first lunar eclipse Andy Kassen, Chris Miles and Gregory Handy had witnessed.
"It’s already worth it, and it’s only going to get better," Miles said as the Earth’s shadow turned about half the moon sanguine brown.
The previous lunar eclipse visible from Utah was in 2010, but the next total eclipse will be Oct. 8. Just a couple of weeks later, on Oct. 23, a partial solar eclipse will be viewable as well. To see a full list of eclipses to come through 2025, visit Wiggins’ webpage at utahastro.info.
"An event like this is almost magical. To think that not very long ago, people looked up with fear because an eclipse was a portent of bad things to come, and now people look up and appreciate the night sky," Wiggins said. "Who knows, maybe in another generation many of us will be looking at it from space."
For more information about upcoming star parties, visit the SLAS website at slas.us.
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