Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Eclipse Report.

First of all, a belated Mele Kalikimaka (Merry Christmas) to everyone! I've been home enjoying the time with my family, which causes the unfortunate side effect of having little time to myself to write. I intend to rectify that situation tonight, however.

To start with, I figured I'd post what few pictures I have from the total lunar eclipse on the 21st. The first is one I took before it began with my sister's zoom lens, showing some impressive detail on the full lunar surface:
Our natural satellite.
Now, true to form whenever an eager astronomer wishes to catch sight of some rare celestial spectacle, the weather took a turn for the worse. No sooner had the eclipse started than clouds began to move in from the south. They were thin enough that the Moon was still visible, but it made getting good pictures quite a bit harder. And eventually, well before the midpoint of the eclipse at 12:17 AM, they thickened to the point where even finding the Moon on the sky was a challenge. This picture below is one of the last ones I managed to get before that happened, and also (sadly) one of the best.

The reason it's less spectacular than the first one is that I had switched back to my wide-angle lens, intending to take pictures of the eclipse every few minutes from my tripod to make a time-lapse movie of the event. That, obviously, didn't pan out, so I'm stuck with some low-detail images. It's not a complete loss, though. You can still clearly see the curved edge of the Earth's thick inner shadow (the umbra) creeping across the lunar surface, covering perhaps 45% in the picture.

So, not the most exciting eclipse I've ever seen (I have seen total lunar eclipses from start to finish before so it's not such a great disappointment for me). I did make one interesting discovery though: I noticed that the standard outfit I wear up to Mauna Kea, which keeps me warm for perhaps 15 minutes or so up there, keeps out the cold for over an hour here in California. Apparently it really is colder up there!

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