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.
There’s been lots of attention over Mars this past week. I can’t really blame all the media coverage, the Mars 2020 Perseverance EDL to the Martian surface was really cool and a great feat for NASA. I enjoyed watching it live on the NASA YouTube feed. But this weekend let’s turn our attention to the Snow Moon; the only full moon in February.
The full moon will occur at 3:17am Saturday, so tomorrow evening will be the best time to catch it. There’s nothing particularly special about this full moon, not a Blue Moon (second Full Moon in the month) or “Super Moon”. The name Snow Moon comes from the Farmer’s Almanac as February is normally the month that receives the most snow in North America.
The great thing about full moons is that you don’t need to stay up all night and wait outside in the frigid cold to see it. At this time of year, in the Northern hemisphere, the Moon is visible for more that 12 hours a day.
If you’re tempted to photograph the Snow Moon, leave the mobile phone behind, it’ll just give poor results and you’ll end up frustrated with frozen fingers. Instead just enjoy the view, paying close attention to the various dark “seas” spanning the lunar surface.
If you do try taking a picture, grab a DSLR or compact camera with manual mode. Set the ISO around 200 and the focus to manual. Your shutter speed should be high, around 1/800s; a full moon is surprisingly bright. You’re get better results by slightly under-exposing your shot. If you have a tripod, use it, else try to steady yourself on something (railing, chair, car roof, etc..) Subtle movement can easily ruin the details in you photos.
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.
Making diner and notice that it’s getting dark outside and there’s not a cloud in the sky. Wait! What time does the Moon rise? 4:54pm it should already be 5 degrees in the sky. Run to the front of the house and look out the door, but no Moon. Hmmm… maybe I’m too low and the houses across the street are blocking the view. Head up one floor and look out the bedroom window! Ah there it is. OK kids, who wants to go see the SuperMoon! I grab my camera as my kids run for their boots and jacket. I figure that from the street corner I should have a good line of sight. Once there I ask my son to hold his arms up in the air as if grabbing the moon. I need to get down pretty low on my knees to get everything lined up. After a few repeated instructions to open or close his hands, to which he responds with a “Are you done yet!” I take a few long exposures under the street lamps. No tripod so 1/8sec and ISO 800 it is. Then took a few more of just the Moon with shorter exposures to avoid causing the Moon to become saturated (1/200sec ISO200)
A bit of photo editing and the end result.
November 13th 2016 Full Moon – just ahead of the Super Moon.
Lots of talk in the last week about the upcoming SuperMoon on November 14th. While it will be the closest and largest Full Moon since 1948, the differences won’t be that significant. It’ll look just like any other Full Moon, one that happens every month. Nothing special will happen to the solar system or the Earth.
However it’s a good opportunity to experiment with your camera and composition as the Moon is rising over the Horizon. Play around with different settings and different lens. You can even spend the day before scouting a good spot with view to the East.
Don’t need dark skies. Don’t need a special mount or stand. This is astro-photography accessible to all.
Missed the photo opportunity with the October Hunter Moon? No worries, while some are claiming it to be a Supermoon, they are mistaken. November’s full moon will be just 3hrs after perigee (closest to Earth), while the difference was 20hrs for October. So the November full moon will be larger than the Hunter Moon that just gone by.
So mark November 14th at 13:52 UTC on your calendar! For North-America, morning of November 14th prior to sunrise will be your best bet. In Asia it will be in the evening. Unfortunately for Europe it’ll take place in the afternoon.
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.
After sneaking the kids’ gifts under the tree while they were sound asleep, I decided to see if the Christmas 2015 Full Moon was visible.
Christmas 2015 Full Moon
Christmas 2015 Full Moon
A thin cloud lightly obscured the view, and I wasn`t sure if the early morning sky would yield any better weather. A few quick shots at 17 and 85mm on the Canon EFS lens to record the event as the next Christmas full Moon will be in roughly 30 years.
If you get up early on Christmas morning, don’t open your presents, or shake that box right away. Head towards the window and glance west at the sky. There over the horizon you’ll see the last full Moon of 2015.
The last time that full Moon happened on December 25th was 1977. Disco was all the rage and “Saturday Night Fever” starring John Travolta, premiered in NYC. So yeah, a long time ago…
I’m guessing with the full Moon to light the way, Rudolf might get a bit of a rest this year. 🙂
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!