Stargazers thrilled by total lunar eclipse – CNN.com
Despite cloudy conditions over much of Europe, a variety of Webcasts carried the event live, and astronomers urged the public not to miss out on the spectacle.
“It’s not an event that has any scientific value, but it’s something everybody can enjoy,” said Robert Massey, of Britain’s Royal Astronomical Society.
Italics are mine, by the way.
Now, last time I checked there are a number of scientific activities underway during a total lunar eclipse. Here are some I remember from off the top of my head.
1. The hue of the moon during a lunar eclipse provides scientists with an opportunity to study light reflected from the moon that has passed through the earth’s atmosphere. Deeper hues of red can indicate large amounts of dust in the air. Studying the spectrographs of the moon’s reflected light can help us understand better the composition of the atmosphere on earth. This has even been cited in Global Warming research.
2. The moon is usually too bright for astronomers to focus their big telescopes on anything close to the moon because the harsh light of the moon drowns out nearby obects. During a lunar eclipse the whole night sky is darkened, allowing a few more hours of serious astronomy to be done across the entire sky.
3. When I was in college physics, we used lunar (and solar) eclipse timings to do trivial things like calculate the size of the moon, sun and earth. These may be “old news” to a venerable RAS member, but they still qualify as “good science” even if only in the sense that it is good training for young scientists learning their trade.
I know there are more things that are done during lunar eclipses. I suspect that this RAS person knows it too, but was simply giving a simple, pat answer to a question he didn’t want to spend any real time on.
But it irks me when these things happens. Science is dissed enough already without some RAS astronomer telling kids that a lunar eclipse is just a boring event for “real” scientists.