Twenty-Seven Hours & Counting

Tomorrow night there’s a total eclipse of the moon, visible from all over the Pacific hemisphere. If you’re in Europe or eastern North or South America, better luck next time. If you’re in Hawaii, you’re golden. In eastern Australia or New Zealand, you’ll see it in the east not too long after moonrise. If you’re in Los Angeles or on the US West Coast, you’ll see it just before sunrise.

Unlike solar eclipses (*NEVER* look at a solar eclipse with the naked eye or any kind of magnification), lunar eclipses are 100% safe to look at with the naked eye, or with binoculars, or a telescope. In this case, if you’re in LA or San Diego or San Francisco or Phoenix or Seattle (you get the idea) your biggest issues will be possible clouds and getting up at 03:00. (I plan on being ready, getting up, checking for clouds, and if they’re there, I’m back in bed!)

Here’s a great site for information on when the different phases of the eclipse start, including detailed information for major cities. This is a short eclipse by lunar eclipse standards. The full phase of the eclipse is only fourteen minutes long, 04:11 to 04:25 in Los Angeles.

After being “clear and a bazillion” for the whole day, I rolled the telescope out late this afternoon and within second it was starting to cloud up.

By the time the moon rose and cleared those trees, it was downright “yucky.” (That’s an official, technical, internationally recognized astronomy term by the way.) I was testing out my equipment for attaching my good DSLR cameras directly to the telescope, using it as a humongous telephoto lens.

The moon was there – the focus wasn’t.

I’m going to blame the clouds. Which is not unreasonable at all, they were an issue.

In addition, right around full moon (we’re 27 hours away, since lunar eclipse = full moon, by definition = do the geometry) most of the moon’s surface looks flat and featureless.

The “good” pictures are always along the terminator, the division between night and day on the lunar surface, where the shadows are sharp.

You can see a tiny bit of that along the top side, where some of the craters on the limb (edge of the visible disk) are highlighted. But not much.

For example, this picture showing the center of the moon with no portion of the limb? Lots of rays and some bright spots, but no shadows with the Sun almost straight overhead.

We’ll see what tomorrow night / Wednesday pre-dawn brings for the eclipse. Keep your fingers crossed!

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