October 28, 2004
Low-lying, stubborn clouds passed and unveiled the Full Moon shining brightly as visitors to the Milwaukee Public Museum observing party eagerly anticipated the start of the last total lunar eclipse for North America until 2007. Astronomy magazine — published a few miles west of Milwaukee in Waukesha, Wisconsin — partnered with the museum and Slooh…Live SpaceShow for a lunar-eclipse observing extravaganza open to the public.
An hour before the eclipse started Wednesday night, thick clouds, rain, and fog beset southeastern Wisconsin. Much to the dismay of local astronomers, Astronomy editors, and event planners, all weather reports predicted “mostly cloudy” and “drizzle” for Wednesday night.
Members of local astronomy clubs — the Milwaukee Astronomical Society and the Urban Stargazers — set up their telescopes at MacArthur Square next to the museum in defiance of the all-too-often capricious Wisconsin weather. As they did, a remarkable thing happened: The sky began to clear. In minutes, the clouds that had blocked any view of the sky for days dissipated.
That good fortune continued throughout the night as the sky above Milwaukee remained clear for the eclipse’s duration.
Meanwhile, inside the museum, activities gave chilled eclipse-viewers a chance to warm up. Astronomy associate editor Michael Bakich informed and entertained visitors with a PowerPoint presentation on the significance of solar and lunar eclipses. The museum set up a video projector and computer for attendees to enjoy a cosmic tour courtesy of the on-line observatory Slooh…Live SpaceShow. As an added bonus for visitors to the event as well as visitors logged on to Slooh.com, Astronomy editors provided live audio commentary. This turned into an impromptu astronomy-related radio show as Slooh’s observatory — located in the Canary Islands — was clouded out.
The event culminated with a telescope giveaway. All visitors to the event were invited to enter a drawing for free subscriptions to Astronomy magazine, Deep Sky Mysteries 2005 calendars, and the grand prize: a Celestron Nexstar 60GT telescope. A young Milwaukean attending the event with his family and friends won the scope.