Posts Tagged 'Colorado'

Solstice Eclipse

by Toby Swaford, K-12 Education Coordinator

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below.

– Clement Clarke Moore

The moon looks red when it's inside Earth's shadow

Stargazers across North America will witness a rare December solstice / lunar eclipse this evening.  The moon will appear to change colors as the Earth’s shadow passes across the lunar surface turning it from gray, to orange, and then, finally, red.

This spectacular display happens when the moon passes behind the earth and enters the earth’s shadow. The earth block’s the sun’s light, which normally shines on the moon and causes it to look white to us, and changing colors of the moon come courtesy of our atmosphere, which will filter the available light.

Diagram of a Lunar Eclipse

Tonight’s eclipse is starting at 11:33 p.m. Mountain Time, December 20th (your start time may vary, depending on the local time zone).  Some aspects of the event will also be visible to viewers in Western Europe and Asia, but North America is best positioned for viewing. Unlike a solar eclipse, tonight’s event can be seen safely with the naked eye requiring no special equipment (blankets, thermos bottles of hot cocoa, and a lawn chair are optional; but what the heck, you’ve probably got most of that stuff just lying around the house).

What makes tonight’s eclipse even more special is that it’s happening on the winter solstice – the shortest day of the year. A total lunar eclipse coinciding with the winter solstice is fairly unique; the last time the two events coincided was 456 years ago.  Luckily, we won’t have to wait that long for another eclipse to come along: the next one is slated for April 15, 2014.  Granted, Tax Day isn’t nearly as festive an event as the solstice, and the visibility won’t be nearly as good here in North America, so get out there and enjoy tonight’s show!


Geminid Meteor Shower

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

A Geminid Meteor over Florida

I know some of you may have felt a little let down when this year’s Leonid Meteor Shower wasn’t too spectacular in Colorado this year. However, the skies may make it up to us tonight with the Geminid Meteor Shower.

After the moon sets (around midnight or so), there will be nothing to block the view of what may end up being over 100 meteors/hour streaking across the sky.

If you want to see the meteor shower, find a spot away from light pollution and look to the northeast. We’re supposed to have a partially clear night here in Colorado, so it should be pretty special.

Enjoy and, as always, good seeing!

June 26th Partial Lunar Eclipse

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

Partial lunar eclipse

I’m setting my alarm clock for 5:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. I don’t know if I’ll actually be able to get up (as I’m still a firm believer that there’s only one 5:00 in the day, and it comes just before dinner), but if I can, I’m in for a treat. So are many of you, if you’re better at being an early riser than I am.

Early, early tomorrow morning, June 26, a partial lunar eclipse will happen when the moon passes through the southern portion of the Earth’s shadow. The best place to see this eclipse will be in the middle of the Pacific ocean. Sadly, Africa, parts of Europe, and even the eastern edge of New England won’t see anything, but out here in Colorado we’ll be able to see a “bite” taken out of the moon as the moon is setting at the end of the night.

The moon will slide into partial eclipse at 4:17 a.m. MST, and will be deepest in shadow at 5:39 a.m. MST as the moon sets in the southwest and the sun begins to rise. It’s sure to be a pretty sight – a partially eclipsed moon in the predawn twilight.

A bit of trivia for you: Lunar eclipses can only happen when the sun, Earth, and moon are aligned very closely. Hence, there’s always a full moon (when the moon is closest to the Earth) when there’s a lunar eclipse. The next full lunar eclipse will happen on December 21, 2010.

Go with the flow

by Toby J. Swaford, K-12 Education Coordinator

Cache la Poudre River just east of the Narrows, June 6, 2010 (photo by Terry Burton)

This year’s extended winter season, mixed with the quick onset of summer-like conditions, has created some interesting situations for the state’s rivers. Many are overflowing their banks and seeing a substantial increase in water movement. Measured in cubic feet per second, some rivers have increased their flow from an average of 400 to well over 1,000 cubic feet per second. What’s that mean?

There are roughly 7.4 gallons (28 liters) of water in a cubic foot. Now, imagine seven gallon-sized jugs of milk flying past you in a second’s time; or, if you’re lactose intolerant, 14 containers of whatever it is you like to drink that happens to come in a 2-liter bottle. That’s equivalent to just one cubic foot of water. A rate of 1,000 cubic feet per second; well, let’s just say, that’s a lot of diet soda moving past you.  Factor in that each of these cubic feet of water weighs approximately 61 pounds, and you have a formidable force of movement.

These were just some of the thoughts that went through my mind as my wife and I headed to the Cache la Poudre for a white water rafting trip this last weekend. I was aware of the risks that come with increased water flow, but my curiosity was also at a peak. I needed to experience the true force of the river to further my understanding of not only physics but local history. (Don’t feel too bad for my wife, the trip was her idea to begin with.)

The Cache la Poudre has played a huge role in shaping the development of Fort Collins. Starting as a military settlement along the banks of the Poudre, the soldiers established Camp Collins in 1862 to protect people traveling the Overland Trail. June of 1864 saw several days of heavy rainfall melting off the snow pack in the mountains. According to some reports, the Cache la Poudre became a twenty-foot high “wall of water” that washed away the camp. That fateful flood caused the Army to reestablish a few miles east of their original location, thus creating Fort Collins.

As we build the new home of the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center, the Cache la Poudre figures prominently into our plans. Not only will the river help us illustrate the history of the region and demonstrate scientific phenomena ranging from biology to physics, the river itself will form a backdrop for the museum property. Watching the banks of the Cache la Poudre swell and overflow a short distance from our proverbial backdoor is, on the surface, a little scary. It’s also an important reminder of the power of nature and its ability to affect mankind, on a variety of levels.

Cache la Poudre River just west of College Ave. in Fort Collins, June 7, 2010 (photo by Terry Burton)

From the Archive: Summer Camp

by Lesley Drayton, Curator, Fort Collins Local History Archive

Getting ready to go to camp this summer?

Recently, while going through a box of letters, postcards, and other ephemera donated to the Museum from a Fort Collins resident, I came across a batch of 1960s promotional material for the High Trails Ranch girls’ camp, still located and operating in Florissant, Colorado. I found this “Recipe for a Memory” from a 1962 brochure too charming to keep to myself:

Summer Camp Recipe for a Memory

I especially enjoy the “stock in trade” at the top of the page that includes boxes of sunsets, campfires, and pack trips, with an additional canister of horses and a bottle of skit night. Sign me up for camp!

The Kingdom of Colorado?

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

Today is Start Your Own Country Day. I wish I’d known this sooner,  I would have gotten a head start on my apartment annexation plans – all hail Katelandia. In honor of this exciting and highly unsuccessful celebration, here’s a little history on the holiday and Colorado’s own brushes with secession. While Colorado never tried to become its own country, several attempts were made to change the state.

Start Your Own Country Day was created during the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. The motivation behind the holiday was to honor “those free spirited souls who dared to hope and believe in a better world where they too could declare any land their own.”


Since Colorado is a state full of free spirited souls, it’s not surprising that over the years a few of them have felt the urge to branch out. According to Wikipedia, in the 1950s the San Luis Valley region of Colorado proposed leaving the state and joining with New Mexico. Costilla County is also cited as having wanted to “break loose” in 1973. In the mid-1930s, the Walsenburg World-Independent proposed that Huerfano County secede. The suggestion was the project of Sam T. Taylor, sports editor at the paper. Taylor went on to be a senator, but only ever of Colorado as his suggestion of secession failed to catch on.

Colorado may have only a few secession initiatives compared to other states (hi, Texas!), but if some other suggestions had succeeded, Colorado might have been located someplace else entirely.

In 1854, the California State Assembly passed a plan to divide the state into thirds, with the southern counties becoming the State of Colorado. Sadly, it never happened.  In 1859, the Pico Act was introduced into the California legislative session to divide the state in two. While possibly not entirely legal, the proposal was embraced and the plan was to create a Territory of Colorado out of the six counties below the thirty-sixth parallel. The bill passed, the state senate approved it, and the governor signed off on it. However, Congress still had to approve and, as the southern states were already threatening their own secession, Congress had little patience for California’s request. When Civil War broke out a year after the Pico Act was introduced, California’s request for separation was forgotten.

Finally, if George Etzel Pearcy had his druthers, most of the state of Colorado would have been known as San Luis. In 1973, Pearcy, a California State University geography professor, proposed re-surveying state lines to create 38 states. The new configuration would redistribute the number of big cities per state so that fewer cities would compete for the same state’s tax revenue, leaving more money for each state’s constituents. To avoid arguments over what state names would be kept and which dropped, Pearcy suggested new state names based on geographic and cultural features common to each region. In the interest of fairness even Hawaii, which would stay just as it was, would get a new name.

Pearcy Map

Pearcy had some support for his plan, but the proposed 38 States was ultimately rejected in Washington D.C.

It seems that, for now, Colorado will remain unified (with the exception of The People’s Republic of Boulder). That may anger some people, but just remember this: as long as no counties leave, we’re still one of the easiest states to draw.

Colorado, 1872

And always remember, if you want to start your own country, you’re going to need a flag.

Images: Associated Content, Strange Maps, Mappery

March 2023

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