Total Lunar Eclipse Of April 04 2015

I LOVE getting out of bed at 03:00! (By which I mean that I absolutely abhor getting out of bed – in any way, shape, or form – at 03:00!) I actually tried to roll over and go back to sleep, but my stupid brain wouldn’t let that happen. (Stupid brain!)

So there I was, out in the front yard, colder than I wanted to be, with a little bit of high haze (but not much), setting up a telescope and some cameras just as the primary (umbral) stage of the lunar eclipse started this morning.

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First series of photos is from a Canon Rebel xT DSLR with a 300mm Tamron zoom lens. The first few all used a 1/4000 second exposure, the final ones all about 1/6 or 1/5 second unless otherwise noted. If you have any questions about specific parameters, please ask in the comments and I’ll be glad to tell you what I know. Or you can check the EXIF data on the files, I don’t think it’s been stripped out.

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When I first set up there were bunnies in the front yard, and far more than the usual one or two I occasionally see in the daytime. I’m guessing seven or eight, maybe more – they are quick when spooked by someone hauling out a big, clanky, metal telescope tripod and setting it up.

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About ten minutes after the bunny exodus I turned around and was myself spooked by a small pack of coyotes trotting down the sidewalk toward me. It seems they were just as surprised as I was. Yesterday was trash day, they were looking for scraps. Unlike Wiley last summer, these four looked pretty healthy and well fed. (Probably on bunnies!)

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A few minutes after the coyotes took off down the block, two large raccoons trotted into the yard. (By “large” I mean as big, or possibly even bigger, than our dog, a lab/shepherd mix.) They seemed miffed that I was there and they had to go climb onto the neighbor’s roof and then into the trees in order to get onto our roof. I’m guessing it was Rocky & Raquel, the local breeding pair. They also seemed very well fed.

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By this point in the eclipse, going to a much longer exposure (1/6 second here vs 1/400 second on the picture before) starts to bring out the reddish, orange-ish, brownish color of the eclipse, caused by sunlight refracting through the Earth’s atmosphere. (The blue-greenish ghost image to the upper left of the moon is an internal reflection in the lens, not the Death Star moving in for the kill.)

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Almost there!

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Going to a much longer exposure (3 seconds) brings out a lot of color, some of the brighter stars near the moon, and a bit of blurring as the moon moves in its orbit and the camera doesn’t track it.

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Totality, but just barely. The upper limb of the moon never got very dark, which makes sense when it was just barely grazing the “top” of the Earth’s shadow. That’s why this was the shortest lunar eclipse in many hundreds of years.

Meanwhile, next to the camera on the tripod with the telephoto lens, I had a Meade EXT 5″ telescope with a Canon Rebel Xti DSLR attached. Exposures run from 1/2000 second to about 1 second during totality.

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Again, time to go to longer exposures and start showing the dark portion of the moon and the colors there.

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Exiting totality, and not a second too soon for us. The eclipse was occurring as the moon approached our western horizon. Within two minutes it was down behind the trees and hill to our west. Those with a clear western horizon would have seen it (barely!) all the way to the end of the partial phase as it disappeared, but we were done for the night.

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Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Space

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