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Saturday, September 17, 2016


My Images of the Penumbral Lunar Eclipse (Saturday 17 September, 2016)

Moon at 3:00 am ACST, 37 minutes after the penumbral eclipse has started, not much is going on in either the telescope or visually. Click to embiggen.Moon at 3:30 am ACST, a clear darkening is seen in the telescope, less obvious visually. Click to embiggen.
Moon at 4:00 am ACST, darkening now obvious both visually and telescopically. Click to embiggen.Moon at 4:30 am ACST, 6 minutes after maximal penumbral eclipse. darkening very obvious both visually and telescopically. Stars also clearer (sorry ABC). Click to embiggen.

Getting up at 2:30 am to view the penumbral eclipse was a bit brutal, as my plan to go to bed really early was thwarted by futile efforts to get SmallestOne to go to bed (The Guardians was on, who can resist super-powered owls) and I wanted to be sure my Beloved Life Partner arrived safe and sound in Hobart for a girls weekend at MOMA, airline connections meant that she didn't get in until around 10:30 pm.

Slightly trippy 7 frame animation of the eclipse,  a bit of libration makes this interesting. There is also some CCD rubbish getting in the way.

But anyway, I staggered out of bed, checked the skies, which were largely cloud free as predicted (thank you SkippySky, my go to cloud prediction service), and dragged Don the 8" Newtonian out getting my weightlifting exercise.

With no Southern Cross or Pointers visible to polar align my scope (curse you horizon obscuring house), and having knocked the finder-scope out of alignment (curse you clumsy shoulders). I took longer than usual to set up and take my first image, hence missing the earliest stages of the eclipse.

But after that it was a just a matter of keeping warm (copious cups of tea and increasing the number of layers I had on until I waddled slightly), occasionally correcting for the drift of not actually polar aligning the scope (my scope has a two axis drive, but only one axis works, one day I will get that fixed.) stopping the camera from shutting itself down and just enjoying the eclipse with my own eyes.

This was the deepest penumbral eclipse I have ever witnessed. The north pole of the Moon went visibly dark, not as dark as in a partial eclipse, but there was nothing subtle about it, anyone wandering out in the early morn would have notice the Moon was not its usual bright self.

The sky was also darker, again, not as dark as it gets in a partial or total lunar eclipse, but you could see that the background sky was darker than ta normal full Moon and that there were dimmer stars visible at 4:30 than a few hours before (Having Orion and Taurus around, with a wealth of dim stars was a useful comparison).

Technical details, I imaged this with a Canon IXUS point and shoot at ASA 400, with infinity to infinity exposure apposed to a 25 mm Plossl eyepiece on an 8" Newtonian reflector with motor drive. See the set-up here. the exposure started at F 13 1/125 second and then mysteriously swapped to F 4.5 1/500 second around haf-way through. Why not my DSLR? Primarily because the Moon is bigger than the field of view of my DSLR on the scope, and I have to manually stitch two images together. That and I have to reread the manual to work out the settings.

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I enjoyed reading this and thanks for sharing your images too. I couldn't catch the eclipse from home (Fiji).
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