Paper Plate Education
"Serving the Universe on a Paper Plate"

Total Lunar Eclipse: May 15, 2003

Students, parents, and faculty are invited to gather at the fields of Prairie Vista to witness the total lunar eclipse on May 15th, beginning shortly after 9:00 p.m. EST.  

Bring a lawn chair, blanket, insect repellant, and a leisurely attitude as we watch the heavens in motion.  At Prairie Vista we will have a few modest telescopes available to view the moon.   Jupiter and Saturn will also be well positioned in the western sky, as indicated by the temporary star charts below.  A few simple activities will illustrate why eclipses occur.

In the event of poor weather (and tiring children), we will likely abandon the Prairie Vista site early.  This is strictly an outdoor event with no access to the school (including restrooms). 

News added the day  of the eclipse, May 15th: 

[8:10 p.m. note: Chuck Bueter will be at the school this evening after 8:40 p.m.]

  • For more background on lunar eclipses in general, see

  • All of the lights will be turned off on the school grounds.  Please approach the parking areas slowly and cautiously.

  • A sheriff’s deputy in a marked patrol car will be on site, and at times we may shine the patrol car’s spotlight across a field when we demonstrate the cause of eclipses.

  • We will likely set up in the playground next to the tennis courts, but the site selection depends on local lighting this evening.  Thank you in advance to the neighbors who minimize outdoor lighting from 8:00 p.m. until midnight tonight.

  • For additional information through PHM, visit the PHM Planetarium & Space Museum for its May 15th program "The Civil War" at 6:30 p.m. EST.  After the 6:30 p.m. public program tonight, the planetarium will feature a small presentation on the eclipse at 8:30 p.m., followed by an observing session outside.  Admission is free.  The planetarium is inside Bittersweet School, just north of Penn High School. 

  • This morning's weather forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies, which is an improvement.  

  • Kids: Wear reflectors if you’ve got them.

  • Coming June 8, 2004, is a transit of Venus, a celestial spectacle so rare that no human now alive has seen one.  Details and links are at  Mark your calendar.


Image courtesy of Fred Espenak, NASA/GSFC (

Event Time
Partial Eclipse Begins: 10:03 p.m. 9:03 p.m.
Total Eclipse Begins: 11:14 p.m. 10:14 p.m.
Mid-Eclipse: 11:40 p.m. 10:40 p.m.
Total Eclipse Ends: 12:07*a.m. 11:07 p.m.
Partial Eclipse Ends: 01:18*a.m. 12:18*a.m.

* Event occurs on morning of May 16, 2003

(For insight into that elusive Hoosier Time (HT) see  Indiana is listed under "Changes and irregularities.")

See Fred Espenak's site for all eclipse details at  

Partial Lunar Eclipse
Fred Espenak's guide to photographing the eclipse.

lunare3.gif (12160 bytes)May 15, 2003, at 9:00 p.m.  
As we await the moon's entrance into the earth's dark shadow, the planets Jupiter and Saturn stand out in the western sky. 
03-05-15eclipse.gif (10241 bytes)May 15, 2003, at 9:00 p.m.
Minutes before the visual part of the lunar eclipse begins, the moon is 11 degrees (about a fist at arm's length) above the horizon to the southeast.


Here are some moon-related activities to try at home or in school prior to the eclipse.

 The Lunar Eclipse activity differentiates between the fainter outer shadow (penumbra) and the darker inner shadow (umbra).  The human eye can usually only discern the darker umbra.  
Oreo-complete_plate.jpg (23364 bytes)  Make and bring a plateful of tasty reminders of the changing lunar shape with Oreo Moon Phases.
Satellite_bowl_upR.jpg (12587 bytes) Make and bring a Satellite Tracking Bowl with the predicted satellite passes for May 15th.
Clay lunar landscapes.jpg (411986 bytes) Create models of the Lunar Surface using clay.  
Moon_Finder_2R.jpg (12281 bytes) Make a Moon Finder to track the moon for any date or time, given any phase.  
Read Goodnight Moon, then discover at Bad Moons Rising why hidden nuggets within Clement Hurd's  illustrations make it such a great book. 

For Girl Scout Brownies in the audience, see also the Try-It on page 97 entitled "What's an Eclipse?" 

Please note: Parents and legal guardians are responsible for the care and well-being of their children.  Realize it will be late and dark.  Some of the street lights will be extinguished that evening, so use extra caution in the parking lots and driveways.  No alcoholic beverages are permitted on school grounds.  If you bring any snacks or beverages, please be sure to pick up your garbage and dispose of it at home.  

Any questions, comments, concerns, assistance, or input can be sent to Chuck Bueter at or Don Darnell at    We hope the weather holds out and you are able to join us for this casual family outing. 

Please drive carefully.  

Stay in the dark!

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