OK – everyone ready for the lunar eclipse tomorrow morning? I figured one last reminder wouldn’t hurt. While the eclipse is best viewed from the western U.S., Alaska and points west, where the moon will be above the horizon when it’s totally immersed in Earth’s shadow, the central U.S. and much of Canada will still manage a worthy partial eclipse.
Skywatchers in the eastern half of the country including the Midwest won’t catch the total phase because the moon sets before totality begins. I’m excited because the weather looks good. We’re expected zero degrees and partly cloudy skies Saturday morning, and I’ve been scoping out places that might make for interesting photos. The moon will be very low in the northwestern sky during morning twilight when the eclipse is underway.
I’ve listed the main events of the eclipse sequence below. The first set of times is for the Duluth, Minn. region; the second for the West Coast, where the total eclipse will be visible. For more information, please see my previous blog on the topic.
* Moon in penumbra (outer shadow) with shading obvious to the eye — 6:30 a.m./4:30 a.m.
* Moon first touches the umbra (dark inner shadow) — 6:46 a.m./ 4:46 a.m.
* Moon fully inside shadow – total eclipse! — 8:06 a.m./6:06 a.m.
* Greatest eclipse when the moon is deepest in shadow — 8:33 a.m./6:33 a.m.
* Moon begins to exit the umbra — 8:57 a.m./6:57 a.m.
* Moon out of the umbra and back in penumbra — 10:18 a.m./8:18 a.m.
If you’re interested in photography, this is the eclipse for you. Because of its low altitude, you can easily frame the moon with an interesting slice of local landscape. Not only that, but it happens during twilight, when the moon’s glare will be much less compared to its appearance in a dark sky. That means we’ll have a rare balance in brightness between the eclipsed moon and landscape, allowing you to properly expose both in your photos. In a dark sky, details on the moon’s face are typically “burned out” and overexposed when trying to include the surrounding scene.
The best time to take these photos is within 20 minutes of moonset, which happens at 7:42 a.m. for Duluth, Minn. That’s also when the eclipse is at maximum. For moonset times for your city, click HERE and select moonrise/moonset from the ‘Types of Tables’ option, fill in your city and select your state.
If you wait until the moon is very, very low, you can use a telephoto lens to enlarge it while still including a landscape without having to cheat with Photoshop. I hope some of you reading this will be out with a camera tomorrow morning looking for a great image. If you get one you like, I’d be thrilled to publish it in a Saturday eclipse gallery. Please send your photos to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cloudy skies expected at your place overnight? Just want to see what totality looks like? You can watch it LIVE right here thanks to the fine folks running the SLOOH Space Camera. To see updated images in the window above, just click the refresh button on your browser. Pretty cool!
The next lunar eclipse, a partial with just 37% of the moon covered at best, occurs on the morning of June 4, 2012. Once again, the moon will set for the central U.S. before much of the event is seen. The next total lunar eclipse to happen anywhere won’t be until April 15, 2014. That’s one to look forward to; the entire U.S. will see the whole thing from start to finish in a dark sky between midnight and dawn. In the meantime, I hope you’re able to make the most of tomorrow morning. Good luck!