I hope you had a great night watching the moon. For some of us it cleared in just the nick of time. Things looked grim for a time here in Duluth. Lake Superior-inspired snow clouds packed the sky from horizon to horizon just before eclipse time. But by the time the funny, gray penumbra became noticeable, the sky broke and we all cheered.
I shared the eclipse with a group of people at a local church. We used our eyes, binoculars and a telescope to watch the shadow slowly devour the bright full moon and its color turn from silver-white to deep orange. The umbral shadow was a dark, ash-gray when it first appeared along the eastern edge of the moon, but color soon followed. Binoculars showed a deep, burnt, smoky red about 15 minutes into partial eclipse. We all noticed the color without optical aid when the moon was about 25 percent covered in shadow.
Did you happen to see the pseudo “diamond ring” effect just before the start of totality? With only the upper edge of the moon still in sunlight, it looked like a shining jewel atop the dark “ring” of the eclipsed moon. Everyone in the group eagerly lined up to photograph the eclipse through the telescope with their cell phones. Sometimes I think it’s worth having a telescope even if your only interested in astrophotography. Mobile phones do a superb job of capturing images of the moon both in and out of eclipse.
We watched the moon through mid-eclipse (11:12 p.m. local time) and all agreed that supermoon aside, the eclipsed moon looked distinctly smaller than a non-eclipsed one. I think the brilliance of a normal full moon makes us overestimate its apparent size. Although the shadowed moon looked dusky red going into totality, during total eclipse the colors were subtle, more burnt orange with a gray-blue upper edge. The blue, possibly caused by light filtering through Earth’s ozone layer, was more obvious than I’d expected.
The sight looked like a watercolor when viewed through the little telescope, making me wish for a moment I worked in watercolors instead of digital photography. Paint might have captured the feel and look of the moon better than camera.
Clouds started to get the best of the moon after mid-eclipse, the group broke up and I packed up my gear hoping to get to a better spot. The best I could do was a few glimpses of the sunlit crescent a few minutes after totality. By the time I finally called it a night, the sky had completely cleared — of course! The moon, now out of eclipse, was impossibly bright!
Valerie, a friend and fellow reader, watched the eclipse in a very different setting and described her experience as she watched the bright moon slowly go dark:
“Being out in the woods alone on a bitterly cold winter night, the trees casting long moon shadows the the blanket of snow, that’s the part of the experience I like best.”
We’d love to hear what you thought. You can send your impressions and photos to me through Facebook at Astro Bob’s Astronomy for Everyone, and I’ll post a selection here. Can’t wait for the next one on May 26, 2021. Thanks and clear skies!
“Couldn’t quit watching.” — Cheri R.
“Couldn’t see anything with that massive storm!” — Carol B.
“Only got a few glimpses until about half way through. The clouds kept covering it but here and there you could see it. So it was not a complete bust. Now it was red at what point? Totality? Because it was not red when I saw it. The eclipsed part was just dark.” — Julie H. (Julie, it appeared red when partially eclipsed. During totality it was more orange, at least to my eyes. — Astro Bob)
“We had on-and-off high clouds through most of the evening, in fact they even made the moon completely disappear during the early part of totality but during the latter part it cleared up a bit and the sight was very beautiful. And yes, I did noticed the “Diamond ring effect”. Anyhow it made a great end to my day!” — Richard M.