The Detroit Observatory collaborated with the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies on Friday to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, Mooncake Festival or “Zhongqiu Jie.” For members of the Chinese community, this festival is a time for family and friends to come together and celebrate the full moon.
Gary Krenz, director of the Detroit Observatory, said the Observatory hosts an open house every Friday night, but this event was particularly special given the celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival.
“We are pleased to be able to partner with the Center of Chinese Studies for the Mid-Autumn Festival,” Krenz said. “The Festival has a lot to do with the Moon and it is a beautiful clear night, which is fantastic (for viewing).”
In China, the Mid-Autumn Festival celebrates the autumn harvest of rice and many fruits. Ceremonies are held to give thanks for the harvest and are closely in line with the celebration of the moon. Based on the Lunar calendar, the Mid-Autumn Festival occurs on the fifteenth day of the eighth month.
The event featured a presentation on telescope observations of the moon. Austin Edmister, assistant director for astronomy at the Detroit Observatory, delivered the presentation on lunar surface features. Edmister said the phases of the moon occur over a 29-day cycle, which fits nicely into the length of a year.
“Many cultures recognize this cycle and incorporate it into their calendar,” Edmister said. “You think about these phases and how rare they are in your whole life, so you have to watch the lunar events while you can.”
Edmister continued his presentation with images of lunar sights including Super Moons, Harvest (Blue) Moons, Earthshine, Lunar Eclipses, Solar Eclipses and Librations. Edmister showed photos from a rare occurrence in 2020 when two Harvest moons were sighted in the same month.
“In 2020, there was a Harvest Moon on Oct. 1 and Oct. 31,” Edmister said. “The Harvest Moon has an orange-red tint to it and it is a cool sight to see.”
Ann Lin, director of the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies, introduced herself following the presentation and brought mooncakes for the attendees. Mooncakes — a widely shared dessert during the holiday — are wheat flour cakes, which contain a variety of fillings such as red bean paste, lotus seed paste, mung bean paste and mixed nuts. Lin told the crowd she was delighted to celebrate this holiday while observing the moon.
“It’s always great when we can pull together science and our culture,” Lin said. “In addition to the great events the Observatory has lined up for tonight, please enjoy some mooncakes and I wish you all a merry Mid-Autumn Festival.”
Rackham student Hejing Hu told The Michigan Daily she attended the event to celebrate her own Chinese identity and that she enjoyed the moon sightings.
“I am Chinese, so this is a festival I have celebrated many times before,” Hu said. “The moon is very fascinating, and it is cool that we get to view it tonight with the telescopes.”
LSA junior Evalicia Chavez worked as a docent for the event and said it was crucial for the event organizers to partner with underrepresented groups for cultural and informational events.
“We partnered with the Chinese Studies department for this event, and that is the kind of outreach that is important for University administration to continue,” Chavez said.
LSA junior Sophia Grant was another docent for the event and shared information about the history of the observatory and the festival with attendees. Grant said she thought the event offered participants a chance to learn more about the history behind the holiday while exploring unique experiences at the Observatory.
“(This event) is a really great opportunity to learn about the history of this building and astronomy because it’s an interesting story that not a lot of people know,” Grant said. “I just love sharing the history with people, and it’s cool to learn how the Observatory has evolved.”
Daily Staff Reporter Sejal Patil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.