I hope that some of you will be taking a few minutes this evening to head outside and glance up at the Moon. Not only is tonight a “Super Moon” but depending where you are, you may find the Moon taking on a red hue due to a lunar eclipse.
For tonight’s event, those around the Pacific rim are best located to see the lunar eclipse. On the east coast of North America you might spot the start of the eclipse as the Moon sets in the early morning.
Even if you are not in a favorable spot, take the time to look at the Moon. There’s this timeless element to it, knowing that it’s been there for millions of years and will continue to be there for many more.
It is also accessible to everyone, no matter how light polluted your sky happens to be.
The best way to see the Moon is with nothing else but your two eyes. Resist the urge to attempt a photo with your phone. That will only end in frustrations. All photographs of the Moon are heavily processed because it’s very hard for a camera to handle both the brightness of a full Moon and the black of the nuit sky, or the glowing halo shining through the thin clouds. And when you do get the brightness under control, all the subtle details of the Moon’s surface is lost. Your eyes are better equipped to handle the large range of brightness and the resolution to really enjoy the sight.
The second Full Moon in a month is generally called a Blue Moon. And yes the old saying “once in a Blue Moon” is in reference to this rare event. Well… if you consider every 2 to 3 years rare. However this one will be extra special because it won’t be blue at all! It’ll be blood-red because we’ll have a lunar eclipse on our hands!
September 27th 2015 Lunar Eclipse
The lunar eclipse will be visible from most of North America, but people out West will be better placed to see it. In the East, the we’ll only get a partial eclipse as the moon sets in the early morning on Wednesday the January 31st around 6:48am EST.
If you do plan to photograph a lunar eclipse, a tripod is strongly advised, and if you are using a telescope, an equatorial mount is required. The above photo is a single frame at 2.5 second exposure and ISO400 with a Skywatcher 80ED. Yes those are a few stars popping into view during the eclipse.
While doing some organization in my astrophotos I came across a picture composition that I created back in September 2015 following the Super Moon Lunar Eclipse, but which I never posted.
I had selected two Lunar Eclipse photos that I had taken with the exact same equipment, but on different year and wanted to see the difference in size with this “Super Moon”. Was it really that much bigger…
Lunar Size Comparison Between February 2008 and September 2015 Lunar Eclipse – Benoit Guertin
The Moon’s orbit is elliptical and eccentric which causes the Moon’s distance to vary by 50,200km from perigee (closest) to apogee (furthest). The end result is a 12% change in apparent diameter as viewed from Earth. The above image only shows a 7% difference as while the background Moon was taken at perigee (famed Super Moon) the foreground was an arbitrary reference of the February 2008 lunar eclipse.
Stitched together the 330 photos of the September 27th Lunar Eclipse into a video.
A few things to note. The Moon “jumps” a few times in the video, and I now realize that it’s due to my presence on the wooden deck is sufficient to cause the telescope to shift ever slightly. Also I didn’t really take time for proper polar alignment, I was a good 5deg off and had to re-align during the total eclipse because the tracking was not perfect. And last, some cloud cover rolled in so I wasn’t able to capture the tail end of the eclipse.
Nevertheless, still much better than the few frames I captured back in 2008.
For the curious of the camera setting. The start with the full moon is taken at ISO 200 1/320sec and then increased up to 3.2sec exposures at ISO 400 during the eclipse.
Transferring over 300 photos (2.5GB) from the old astro-laptop via USB key to my main PC will take some time (30 minutes just to transfer 1.0GB on the key). Therefore the work towards making a time lapse video will be tomorrow.
In the meantime here is one quick pick from the lot of photos taken with the Canon mounted on the telescope. Did a quick stretch and level adjustment, just so I’d have something to show before going to bed.
I quick reminder of the SuperMoon lunar eclipse this Sunday. The next time that a lunar eclipse coincides with the Moon’s closest approach will be 2033. So recharge your camera and get your tripod out of the closet to record the event.
CBC News has provided the viewing times for different parts of Canada.
A total lunar eclipse is sometimes referred as a Blood Moon due to the reddish-brown hue the Moon takes when passing in Earth’s shadow. So why “Super“? The Moon has an elliptical orbit around Earth, with the distance varying by 20,000km between the closest (perigee) and farther (apogee) approaches. When there is a full Moon during its closest approach it’s called a Supermoon. The result is a Moon that is 14% larger in area and 30% brighter than at apogee.
September 27th 2015 happens to be special because both events will take place at the same time: a total lunar eclipse at perigee. Last time that happened was nearly 30 years ago!
Welcome to a journey into our Universe with Dr Dave, amateur astronomer and astrophotographer for over 40 years. Astro-imaging, image processing, space science, solar astronomy and public outreach are some of the stops in this journey!