Total Lunar Eclipse – What A Beauty!

The moon just coming out of eclipse over Spring Lake north of Duluth, Minn. this morning October 8. Details: 200mm telephoto, ISO 800, 1 second exposure. Credit: Bob King

I hope your sky was clear for the total lunar eclipse. It sure wasn’t here. A big bank of clouds moved in before totality. I was shocked when I looked at the window to see a clear sky in the east and not a single star – or moon – in the west. That’s why man invented the car.

Moon around mid-totality with the planet Uranus (left) for company. Credit: Bob King

25 miles north of town the burnt orange moon slid out from under the clouds. It was already mid-eclipse, but no matter. I pulled over to the side of the road to enjoy the sight as twilight crept up from behind.

In binoculars Uranus was plain to see near the lower edge of the moon where the color was deep, rich and red. Up along the lunar topside the color graded to a pale straw yellow.

The full moon departs Earth’s shadow over a spruce bog tinged with fall color north of Duluth Wednesday morning around 7 a.m. Credit: Bob King

Clouds threatened again sending me fleeing to a lake shore and finally another roadside. Around 6:30 a.m. traffic picked up. Everyone driving south or west on their way to work and school got the astronomical treat of their life – the moon emerging from total eclipse right out the front windshield. Sweet!

The partially eclipsed moon glows against Earth’s setting shadow (the purple band) this morning. Full moons are directly opposite the sun, setting around sunrise and rising at sunset. When you look at the moon during eclipse you’re staring directly down the shadow cone cast by the planet. Credit: Bob King

For a total lunar eclipse to happen, the moon must be full and lie in the same plane as Earth’s orbit. Since the moon’s orbit is tilted 5Β°, it normally misses Earth’s shadow at full, passing a few degrees above or below it.

The moon partially covered in Earth’s shadow seen from Dayton, Ohio this morning. At the moon’s distance, the planet’s shadow is surprisingly small – only big enough to cover the Seven Sisters (Pleiades) star cluster. Credit: John Chumack

The full moon orbits behind the Earth opposite the sun; as the sun rises the moon sets. At the moon’s distance of 240,000 miles, the Earth’s shadow, both penumbra and umbra, spans a little more than 2Β° or about the size of the Pleiades star cluster.

Seems pretty small, doesn’t it?

But viewed from the ground, Earth’s shadow reaches from one end of the western horizon to the other. In the evening, the shadow is equally broad but appears in the eastern sky. This morning we had the unique opportunity to see the partially eclipsed moon in Earth’s distant shadow at the same time as seeing the much bigger near-shadow of the planet. Wild thought.

Full sequence of this morning’s total lunar eclipse. Details: Canon 6D camera, 80mm refractor, 2-second exposure at ISO 6400. Credit: John Chumack

13 Responses

  1. Troy

    Also had some wild weather in Michigan. Clouds cleared out just about the start of the eclipse. I don’t have a good western horizon at home, so I had to travel and of course I had to bring my own electricity. My goal was to photograph the entire eclipse to make a time lapse, unfortunately I overestimated the laptop battery and had to make a mid eclipse quick jaunt home for the laptop power cable (5:30 am figured no one would be around to mess with my setup so I left it). The powertank can’t run a laptop so I had to move the car and use the cigarette lighter. So I have two gaps in my series. Good equipment learning experience. Like you had to go directly to work. I’m sure they’ll be a few eclipse-zombies at work today.
    I thought the eclipse was darker than usual (darker side of orange), and I was surprised the penumbral eclipse was evident through the telescope and very pretty. Also jogged over to Uranus briefly. (I love the twin shot you got of the Moon and Uranus.)

    1. astrobob

      Congrats Troy. That does sound like one of my “adventures”! Glad you got to stand in shadow so long. Send me a favorite photo if you can and I’ll put it in the blog.

  2. Edward M. Boll

    The morning could not have been better. At 4 I woke up the boys and my wife. Of course that did not stop me, I walked outside and little by little he Moon lose it’s radiance. I saw a couple meteors, draconids? Then I drove 2 miles out put my 20 power on the Moon after focusing on Jupiter, and there was Uranus brighter than I expected. It is amazing how bright the right side of the eclipse was and how dim the left side. I have a school bus route and the Moon was right in front of me as I drove part of the route. Then I saw the Moon almost full hug the horizon as it set, wwwhile on my route

  3. Roy

    Nice stuff !!! Thank you for this Bill (and to John Chumack too) !

    I used to have close friend that happened to be a Timber Wolf … He loved this kind of thing. I was never sure if his baying would bring in a pack of trouble but it sure made the wilderness experience fun having him around on these types of adventures.

    I hope you have a chance to share the in-person experience with some good company on occasion too … πŸ˜‰

    Thanks again,

    1. Roy

      Just noticed that I typed ‘Bill’ instead of ‘Bob’ … SORRY !!!

      I have been up too late a few too many nights in a row.

      I may just be personifying Troy’s ‘Eclipse-Zombie’.

      I hope you will someday forgive me my trespasses … πŸ˜‰ …

  4. It was a beauty! I gave up just after totality…I should have gone out elsewhere but it was so warm in the house after being in the yard for so long. I will send you a few photos if I can find your email address.

  5. Toni

    I love your blog! Even though I woke up early enough to watch the eclipse, I didn’t realize how complicated it was to find an uncluttered view of the Western horizon. I drove around & after being offered “help” I realized a) the potential was high to be mistaken for a suspicious “lurker” & b) possibly shot by a suspicious neighborhood “watch” enthusiast. Sadly & bitterly disappointed I decided to turn around & return home. Ah, suburbia! I would have had much better luck in New York City just by simply WALKING to Riverside Park. WHEN is the next lunar eclipse? Tell me please!

    1. astrobob

      Hi Toni,
      Glad you like the blog – thanks for saying. Yes, finding a clear view to the west was a bit tricky for me, too. The next total lunar eclipse visible for you will happen September 28, 2015 in the late evening.

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