A crowd of families watched from the banks of the Delaware River in East Torresdale last week as a full, reddish moon rose over the woods of New Jersey, and there was a buzz of excitement.
The moon was the star of the show at Glen Foerd on the Delaware’s party to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch. It was held Tuesday, July 16, exactly a half-century after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin departed from Florida.
Children were given the opportunity to make crafts, including imaginary postcards from space, paper rockets and paper plate moon faces.
Attendees could also taste samples of astronaut ice cream, fruit and Tang, a drink that grew in popularity after being used in NASA missions in the 1960s.
On Glen Foerd’s riverside, three astronomy enthusiasts set up high-powered telescopes, hoping to get a good view of Jupiter, Saturn and, of course, the moon.
Ted Williams, president of the Rittenhouse Historical Society, was posted next to his large Dobsonian telescope. He said kids spend a lot of time reading about science and not enough time participating in it.
“There’s not one screen that still matches the resolution of what the human eye can detect,” Williams said. “On a good scope, you can still see that pristine image.”
“I love to see the light bulb go off,” he added. “When you stand here next to somebody and they’re seeing Saturn’s ring for the first time… you can just see the awe they’re in.”
Glen Foerd has hosted “star parties” in the past as part of the Philadelphia Science Festival, which is organized by the Franklin Institute. The Apollo 11 party grew out of those experiences, and a suggestion by local astronomy hobbyist Martin Knoblauch, said Nicole Schaller, Glen Foerd’s program coordinator.
Ross Mitchell, who recently took over as Glen Foerd’s executive director, said the historic mansion, which, along with its extensive grounds, is part of the Fairmount Park system, is looking to engage the community in a variety of ways.
“I think some people don’t know that we’re here,” Schaller said.
Knoblauch, who was also on hand for the event, told the crowd that the moon looks red when it first rises because the atmosphere is thick near the horizon and absorbs all colors except for red and orange.
The moon also looked larger, but that is a trick of perspective, he added.
For those who put their eye up to the telescope, it appeared even closer. ••
Jack Tomczuk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.