[Masthead - Herald]

Get ready for rare early evening eclipse

By Kristen Garett
The Herald (Sharon, Pa) — November 8, 2003

[Lunar eclipse] Nature often provides us spectacles, some dangerous and exciting, some beautiful and calming.

If Mother Nature cooperates, one of those beautiful and calming spectacles is expected to be visible in the sky tonight. If it's not too cloudy, Mercer County residents can watch the full moon dim into a dark, ruddy orb as it drifts through Earth's shadow.

The start of the eclipse will begin at 6:33 p.m., said local astronomer Ted Pedas. The total eclipse will begin at 8:06 p.m. and end at 8:31 p.m., he said.

"It's going to be a very, very exciting show for locals to go out and see," Pedas said. "It's rare that we have a total eclipse that's so visible so early in the evening."

Pedas, director of Farrell Area School District's Ted Pedas Planetarium, said eclipses usually occur in the middle of the night and people have to set their alarm clocks to watch them.

The total eclipse will be very short, only about 25 minutes, while many can last as long as 1 hour and 40 minutes, Pedas said.

This heavenly happening is unusual not only because it's so early in the evening, but also because it's the second lunar eclipse this year, Pedas said. There was a total eclipse in May.

"It's only every few years, about every three years, that we get an interesting total eclipse for the Shenango Valley," Pedas said. "It's only once a decade or longer that we get one that's nice and early in the evening."

Unlike eclipses of the sun, which can damage viewers' unprotected eyes, lunar eclipses are safe to watch with the naked eye or binoculars.

"It's a fun thing to take the family out," Pedas said. He said everyone will have to keep their fingers crossed for good weather.

Depending on how much pollution is in the sky because of volcanic eruptions, viewers may be able to see a very faint outline of the moon during the total eclipse, Pedas said.

Total lunar eclipses come in many colors, from dark brown and red to bright orange, yellow and even gray, depending on how much dust and clouds are in the Earth's atmosphere at that time, said Stephen Maran, a spokesman for the American Astronomical Society.

Lunar eclipses have played a major role in history, Pedas said.

He said when Christopher Columbus ran out of food on a trip, he went to the natives but they weren't very friendly. Columbus, who knew of an impending eclipse, told the natives he would take away their moon. When the eclipse came, the natives thought Columbus was a god and brought him food, Pedas said.

In ancient times, the phenomenon was believed to be caused by some unseen monster bloodying the moon, an omen of disaster.

Eclipses may have been mystical then, but now people understand the science behind them. Pedas said they prove the mechanics of the solar system as the moon comes into the shadow of the earth.

More information about the sky above Mercer County can be found at the Ted Pedas Planetarium

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[Masthead - Herald]

Many moons ago The Shenango Valley was looking upward in 1969

By Tom Davidson
The Herald (Sharon, Pa) — July 18, 2009

SHENANGO VALLEY - "It's different, but it's very pretty out here," Neil A. Armstrong said. "It has a stark beauty all of its own."

He and fellow astronaut Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin Jr. were on the moon.

It was 10:56:20 p.m. EDT on July 20, 1969 - 40 years ago Monday - when Armstrong exited lunar lander Eagle and set foot on the moon, taking "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

Aldrin followed him and the pair "walked, hopped and loped over the moon," according to United Press International science writer Edward K. Delong's account in the July 21, 1969 edition of The Sharon Herald.

"Isn't it fun?" Armstrong asked Aldrin as people around the globe watched on television, thanks to cameras supplied by Westinghouse.

The world watched and marveled at the spectacle.

"It was one of those things that were beyond understanding," retired Herald Editor James A. Dunlap said.

Now 87, Dunlap said he doesn't have vivid memories of the event, but noted it as a touchstone of human history.

"It's always amazed me," he said.

The moon walk was the culmination of a challenge President John F. Kennedy issued in 1960 - three years after Americans were caught off guard when the Russians successfully launched Sputnik and became the first space pioneers.

Kennedy launched the space program and the country spent billions of dollars competing in the "space race."

It's something Farrell astronomer and philanthropist Ted Pedas fondly recalls.

Sputnik inspired panic because Americans wondered "what went wrong" that the Soviets beat us to space, Pedas said. It also inspired him to take up astronomy at Youngstown State University, he said.

After Kennedy challenged the country to enter the space race, "everyone got caught up in the idea," he said.

"Are they going to make it?" people wondered, Pedas said.

"It was a very uncomfortable time," he said.

America was fighting a war in Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement was in full swing, and as the 1960s went on the nation was rocked by the assassinations of JFK, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. People "needed something to inspire" them.

Space exploration and the hope of landing on the moon provided it, Pedas said.

It cost the country dearly - more than $25 billion - but that money also was a "massive stimulus program" that helped the economy, created jobs and resulted in inventions that benefit us to this day.

Pedas was participating in a model rocketry program at Michigan State University on that day of the moon landing.

He remembered watching the events unfold on television.

"It was really grainy, almost a non-event," he said of the broadcast.

The late CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite's narration was unsure.

"I think that might be his foot ... that might be dust ..." Pedas recalled Cronkite saying.

After Armstrong uttered the immortal words about "one giant leap" for mankind, Pedas remembered Uncle Walter asking "what did he say?"

That the milestone was captured on film and broadcast back to earth was in itself amazing, Dunlap said.

"Not only were we able to put a man on the moon, we were able to watch it on television," he said. "It was amazing."

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[Masthead - Vindicator]

February 6, 1995
This One-on-One interview with Ted Pedas was conducted by Harold Gwin of The Vindicator's Sharon Bureau.

Astronomer: Pride in community solves problems

[Ted Pedas Interview]

  1. Q. When did you first develop an interest in astronomy?
    A. I would have to say that it was in October 1957.

  2. Q. How can you pinpoint the date so closely?
    A. Because a very, very significant thing happened. I was taking an elective astronomy course at Youngstown State University. We had this old, twice-retired professor. That was when sputnik had gone up. The next day we had class and he said he didn't know what was happening but he knew that everything was about to change. The world was in turmoil and it made a real big impact on me.

  3. Q. So you didn't go to college to learn about the stars?
    A. I was interested in business. All my life I've been interested in business. But there was something so exciting about something new, to be at the forefront of something new. That Oct 4 launch of sputnik was a pivotal event in my life.

  4. Q. Have you been able to incorporate your interest in business with astronomy?
    A. Ironically, my travel programs have merged as a business.

  5. Q. What are your travel programs?
    A.It was an extension of educating people. In the 1960's, I went to see a total eclipse of the sun and I came back from that experience a changed person. I thought how wonderful it would be to get other people to share this experience, so I came up with an idea.

    There was a total eclipse of the sun in 1970 on March 7 and I looked at where it would be visible. It was visible, among other places, on the Eastern seacoast at a place called Eclipse, Va., and I thought what a great thing it would be to take a bunch of people and meet at Eclipse, Va.

  6. Q. Was that your first astronomical tour?
    A.We told them that we'd like to bring fame and fortune to Eclipse, Va., because we were going to bring thousands of people there on eclipse day and we were going to have a three-day festival.

    It all sounded very good until a few months before the event. The city fathers had second thoughts because Woodstock was very, very fresh in their minds. They warned us that if we even as so much came near Eclipse, Va., the drawbridge to the city would be drawn up and we would not be permitted through.

  7. Q. Did that discourage you?
    A. As I was moaning this loss, I received a letter from the National Science Foundation and it said that I was invited to go to East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., for a weeklong conference during this eclipse.

    We had work sessions, lectures, workshops and we watched the eclipse. I thought this was the thing to do — get people together in a more serious adventure.

  8. Q. Is that what you did?
    A. I started looking for the next eclipse and that one happened to be in July 1972 in the North Atlantic. I had approached all the shipping companies in New York and everyone thought it was a ridiculous idea.

    One company took a chance. We only got one famous person, Scott Carpenter, the second man in space, and an organization, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, to participate.

  9. Q. Did it work?
    A. The thing was a sellout and the rest is history. In 1973, there was an eclipse in Africa and we took three ships and 3,000 people, and it went on and on. Then I started running out of eclipses.

    So I noticed who was coming on these things. They were mainly older, educated people. They wanted educational cruises and I thought this was a great idea. Why not substitute an archaeological site for the eclipse? Why not go to the Galapagos Islands?

  10. Q. How many people have been on your tours?
    A. I have attracted about 40,000 friends who go with me on these trips.

  11. Q. How did you feel when the Farrell Area School District named its planetarium after you?
    A. I was quite surprised and honored.

  12. Q. You've put a lot of your own money back into the school district, haven't you?
    A.I've donated just about $201,000. I'm not saying that this should be an example for others, but I could not really live with myself if I didn't return to my school and my community some of what it has given me.

  13. Q. You travel a lot. Have you considered moving elsewhere?
    A. I never thought of leaving here and I will stay here. This is my legal residence, this is where I vote and it's my community. I really have a lot of pride in it.

    I think if we can instill pride in people toward their school, their community and so on, a lot of our problems will be resolved. What better way to do this than to shell back some of the monies that you've earned.

  14. Q.Your giving has gone beyond aid for educational programs, hasn't it?
    A. The thing I take the greatest delight is the motivational award. I made a 10-year commitment to the school that I would give $1,500 each year for two awards to the kids most motivated in their senior year.

  15. Q. As a man who has studied the heavens extensively, are you religious?
    A. I may not be a church-going person on a regular basis but I think that anyone who has seen the things that I have seen in the sky, that has seen the wonders of the universe, the majesty of the universe, has to believe that there had to be some very, very, very, powerful and wonderful source for all of this.

  16. Q.Do you have time for any hobbies?
    A. My hobby really is my planetarium at Farrell because I don't look at it as a job. Travel is a hobby, especially when I go on my own to explore. I like to read as much as possible.

  17. Q. Are you doing what you want to do?
    A. I think that I'm at the best time of my life right now. Here I am, a kid from Farrell, completely landlocked, and yet, I have spent over three and one-half years of my life on water around the world. I've been on all the oceans, the great rivers of the world, the great (water) falls of the world. I have covered more than 200 destinations, not counting the United States. To me, it's incredible.

Ted Pedas
  • HOMETOWN: Farrell
  • OCCUPATION: Director of the Farrell Area School District Planetarium; administrator emeritus at Youngstown State University; Vindicator science columnist; archaeological and astronomical tour director.
  • EDUCATION Bachelor's degree in history and master's degree in science from YSU; master's degree in science from Michigan State University.

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The Herald Spectrum

Studying the sun, the moon, the stars — sky's a puzzle to planetarium director at FHS

By Sandy Scarmack
Herald Staff Writer —Saturday, October 1, 1988

[News Reprint - Studying the sun...] Mankind's History is all in the stars, according to Ted Pedas, planetarium director for Farrell Area School District. He believes we can learn a lot about where we're going and where we've been by studying the stars.

In fact, Pedas is so enthused about the connection between archeology and astronomy that he has spent years traveling by ship to famous archeological sites and studying the stars along the way.

And this knowledge isn't someting he wants to keep secret. In fact, he has taken more than 17,000 people on his seabound excursions over the last 18 years.

“Everyone laughed at me when I first came up with this idea of travel as an educational experience. But I'm an educator, first and foremost, and I knew it was a good idea. There is a certain segment of the population that is interested in more than ‘snoozing and boozing’ on a sea cruise, ” Pedas said.

“I have had hundreds of people write me later and tell me how much they enjoyed what they learned, and in fact, many have gone on to develop an avid interest in astronomy. I've received hundreds of books and articles written by people I've had on these tours,” he said.

Pedas discovered his own interest in astronomy by accident. He started studying business at Youngstown State University as an undergraduate, and took an astronomy course as a way to get “easy credit.”

“I had heard that it was a piece of cake. It turned out that I had a twice-retired professor who was absolutely fascinating. That was the same fall that Sputnik passed overhead. I got really excited and he made me his assistant. The rest is history,” Pedas said.

“The sky is filled with wonder. It is truly an awesome sight. Think about this: If the stars only came out once in a lifetime, everyone would gaze in awe. But since it's a nightly occurrence, people don't pay attention, ” he said.

In his classes at Farrell High School, Pedas said he tries to inspire this sense of wonder. “I try to be philosophical and answer the big questions like, ‘Are we the only ones here?’ ‘Is there life on other planets?’

“I believe that we can learn a lot about ourselves through the stars.

Why do we explore? Because as a civilization we've reached a certain point where we begin to think about these things. We've realized how important ecology and the environment is; we've realized that Earth is a very fragile sphere with finite resources,” Pedas said.

“We can learn about where we're going when we're looking back,” he added.

When the students enter the planetarium, Pedas tries to make it a relaxed atmosphere where the impressive nightime displays, shown from more than 80 different projectors, and the choreographed music hold their attention while Pedas explains the ties between the stars and the sun and the moon and tides.

Pedas said people “thought he was crazy” when he gave up a full-time teaching position at Youngstown State University for two part-time jobs. One at Farrell high school and one at YSU's planetarium. “I'm getting used to people laughing at me until they see what it's all about,”he said.

Pedas has traveled the world around, and he said he has been to “every major archeological site in the world, some of which include the Galapagos Islands, Honduras, Machu Picchu, Israel, Egypt, Nazca, Easter Island, the Andes and Quito plus many others.

He is friends with astronauts, including Neil Armstrong; he has abeen written about by Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov and is recognized worldwide as one of the leading astronomers. Yet he chooses to stay in Farrell, his hometown, out of a sense of loyalty.

“I was born and raised here, and I think I owe something to this community. Farrell has always been the underdog and I wanted this planetarium to be the best there is,” he said.

Pedas may have reached his goal. At one time, there were more than 300 planetariums in Pennsylvania, more than in any other state. Now, from dwindling federal and state funds, only about 20 remain open.

“We give our annual Christmas show (Star of Wonder), and I believe that is something we owe the community. If you could only see the happy faces that leave our show. That is my reward right there. People often want to donate, but we don't take it. After all, the taxpayers have paid for most of this equipment,” he said.

Most, but not all. Pedas regularly donates 20 percent of his annuyal salary to the school board to buy equipment. This year, he created a special $1,000 cash award for a graduating senior who shows the most improvement — no strings attached.

“I'm an educator and I believe in the school system. I want to see kids enjoy themselves when they come to school. Our planetarium here is a little break fronm the monotony of the classroom,” he said.

“We give a few clues about the universe and we try to elaborate. But the sky is like a big puzzle and we're here to help everyone figure it out,” he said.

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