Total Lunar Eclipse September 28th 2015

Here are some photographs taken during the total lunar eclipse on the morning of 28th September 2015. All photographs were taken from my garden in Chandlers Ford Hampshire.Eclipse-composite

This was the so called “Supermoon” eclipse. All photos taken with a Canon 70D  with Canon’s 100-400m IS (Mk 1)  Zoom lens and 2x extender (800mm efective focal length at f/11). This normally is manual focus but the 70D in Liveview mode manages to auto focus (albeit slowly) whilst the moon was reasonably bright. I had to flick the switch to MF as it got darker as the AF “hunted” and couldn’t focus well. The focus on the 2x extender is quite soft anyway (the 1.4x is said to be much better but I don’t have one).

The Partial phase was mainly at ISO 200 and exposures of 1/200 to 1/50s. The total  phase (and the “red” effect on partial phase) needed exposures of more than 1 second and/or high ISO. I took various shots between 1s and 10s and ISO of 800 to 6400 with the 70D long exposure noise reduction and high ISO noise reduction turned on. The camera was mounted on my Celestron EdgeHD 925 telescope tracking at Lunar rate. Unfortunately vibrations of the mount meant many shots had “judder” and were rejected.

Whilst the media has focused on this being the last “Supermoon” eclipse before 2033, there will be Lunar Eclipses visible in the UK before then. For details of all future eclipse, the best source is NASA.

Start of the Partial Phase

Partial Phase

Partway through the partial phase

Around halfway through the partial phase

Getting near totality

Near totality – the red shadow now visible

Totality

Mid eclipse

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Total Lunar Eclipse 28 September 2015

On the early morning of 28th September 2015 there will be a total eclipse of the Moon. Details of the eclipse can be found here: http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/LEplot/LEplot2001/LE2015Sep28T.pdf And here: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/observing-news/get-ready-for-septembers-total-lunar-eclipse-091420155/ 

Times are in UTC, so add an hour for British Summer Time.

The total phase is between 0311 BST and 0423 BST. The penumbral phase begins at 0111 BST and ends at 0622 BST.

The examples in this post were taken during the March 2007 Total Lunar Eclipse unless stated otherwise using a Canon 300D DSLR and 800mm lens.

Lunar Eclipse March 2007 - Partial Phase

Partial phase: Location Hampshire, UK Taken at ISO200, 1/125s with 800mm lens at f/11 on Canon 300D Taken at 2200 UT

Lunar Eclipse March 2007: Just before totality

Just before totality: 4 seconds at ISO400 f/11, 800mm on Canon 300D Location Hampshire, UK

Lunar eclipses are perfectly safe to view throughout the eclipse and pose no risk to eyesight or equipment (unlike a solar eclipse). They are the result of the moon, earth and sun being aligned such that the moon passes through the earth’s shadow as cast by the sun. What happens is that there is a faintening of the bright full moon as the moon passes through the “penumbra”. This may not be discernible to the naked eye but maybe by camera.

During mid eclipse, as the moon passes through the “umbra” of the shadow, then the moon darkens considerably and observers will see a gradual darkening until the moon is fully in shadow. Photographs at this stage show a reddish arc crossing the moon until the moon is fully reddish in colour.

Lunar Eclipse March 2007: Mid Eclipse

Mid Eclipse: Location Hampshire, UK f/11, 800mm on Canon 300D 20 second exposure at ISO400, Guided

During the relatively long total phase the moon is very dark and reddish in colour, though how dark and how red depends on many factors.

Photographing the eclipse has challenges. A DSLR is the best type of camera to use as it can be directly attached to a telescope or use a telephoto lens. Normally a full moon would need an exposure of about 1/200s at ISO 200 and f/10. You should check your exposures with your camera and lenses (or telescope) against a normal full moon. Lenses with less than about 200mm focal length will not have enough magnification to show much. However, one could experiment with short focal lengths to create a montage of the moon throughout the varying phases of the eclipse.

With a long focal length you can show considerable detail. I have a 100-400mm focal length zoom lens with a 2x extender giving an 800mm focal length system which the above photographs were  taken with (on a Canon 300D) during the March 2007 lunar eclipse.

However, the resulting f/11 configuration requires four times longer exposures than the 400mm f5.6 lens (or a 4x ISO – though that introduces more noise). The moon is considerably darker so exposures of several seconds become necessary which is only possible if the camera can be guided, otherwise movement due to the earth’s rotation blurs the image. Putting the camera onto a “piggy back” mount on a guided telescope or a special guided camera mount (such as sold for about £300 by the likes of iOptron, Skywatcher and Baader).Otherwise you’ll need your camera to be tripod mounted and to increase the ISO to keep exposures below about half a second beyond which the image will blur.

It will be necessary to manually focus the camera and put settings onto manual as the camera will not focus or expose correctly if left on automatic settings. Try focusing on a bright star first using (if your camera has it) via the LCD panel (or “LiveView” on a Canon).

Fortunately during the 70 minutes or so of totality you have plenty of time to experiment with differing camera settings to get the best results. Try shorter exposures at higher ISOs or longer exposures at lower ISO to assess the quality. Various online resources and books (eg Covington’s Astrophotography for the Amateur) provide guidance on exposures etc.

Here are some other examples from the 2008 eclipse (when there was a lot of cloud about):
Lunar Eclipse February 2008

Good Luck and let’s hope for clear skies.

The Milky Way over Durdle Door

Last night I visited Durdle Door in Dorset to capture sunset shots and views of the Milky Way as the sky was predicted to be clear, for the first time in weeks.

I arrived at the Durdle Door campsite carousel around 6pm and walked down to the cliffs above the beach. I took a few photos from the cliff top before walking down to the beach to await sunset.

As the sun went down in the West, a warm glow lit up the arch and also the beach towards the Bat Hole.

Durdle Door arch lit by sunset light.

Durdle Door arch lit by sunset light.

The arch lit by sunset light (processed to remove people)

The arch lit by sunset light (processed to remove people)

Looking towards the Bat Hole as the sun was going down.

Looking towards the Bat Hole as the sun was going down.

I then went back up to the cliffs above the beach to await darkness to capture the Milky Way. I set up so as to take portrait photos with the Milky Way above the arch. Trying various exposures, with a 10mm lens at f3.5, ISO1600 and 30 to 45 seconds produced the best results.

I tried using my flashgun to brighten the arch but with limited success.

The Milky Way above the Arch. a meteor is visible on the left.

The Milky Way above the Arch. a meteor is visible on the left.

With the car park being closed at 1000pm I needed to finish around 930pm (it only became full darkness at 9pm) and finished with a few landscape style shots at ISO 3200. The image was very noisy and attempts in Lightroom were unsuccessful at reducing it.

shot of the arch and milky way. I. ISO 3200 and 30 sec exposure.

shot of the arch and milky way. I. ISO 3200 and 30 sec exposure.