This month we have an awesome opportunity to see one of mother nature’s best sights, a total lunar eclipse. In fact much of the western hemisphere will be in the proper location. The night of April 14/15 is the special time. For many, totality will be in the early morning hours of the 15th. Have some coffee ready! What to expect? Well, total lunar eclipses are quite lovely and can vary in appearance significantly. Usually, as the moon gets deeper into the umbral shadow of the earth, the moon turns a dark orange red color, corresponding to the color of a total all-earth sunset. Sometimes totality is marked by a deep charcoal shade with an orange cast to it. The eclipse process is slow. much slower than watching the totality of a total solar eclipse. Here are some times:
|Evening April 14||Morning April 15|
|U1||Partial began||8:58 pm||9:58 pm||10:58 pm||11:58 pm||12:58 am|
|U2||Total began||10:07 pm||11:07 pm||12:07 am||1:07 am||2:07 am|
|Mid-eclipse||10:47 pm||11:47 pm||12:47 am||1:47 am||2:47 am|
|U3||Total ended||11:25 pm||12:25 am||1:25 am||2:25 am||3:25 am|
|U4||Partial ended||1:33 am||2:33 am||3:33 am||4:33 am||5:33 am|
Ok – so what do all these times mean? You will not really notice the partial phases of the eclipse. If you are taking photos of the full moon during partial phase, you will see a slight dimming of one side of the moon as it travels into the earth’s penumbra. You will notice the darker shadow of the umbra as totality phases begin, at U1. This chunck of darkness will eventually darken the entire moon (U2) which begins the totality phase of the eclipse.
Here is a photo of a partial lunar eclipse. Notice how subtle the shading is on the lower right of the moon. (10/18/2013 J. A. Blackwell)
A total eclipse will be much more pronounced. Here is a series of images from a total eclipse that we took a number of years ago here at the Academy. A hint as to the date: the Red Sox won the series that night! (2/28/2008 J. A. Blackwell and Students)
Ok – so – all you need? A comfortable location, warm clothing, some warm food/drink, friends and perhaps some binoculars. I like to use a sleeping bag on a lounge chair. If you want to take photos of the event, a stable tripod mounted DSLR camera and medium focal length lens (200mm or so) will do nicely. We use a 6″ Takahashi refractor on a permanent mount, but that is overkill…. fun…. but overkill. DSLRs allow one to bracket exposures and take many photos rapidly. If you take one image each 5 minutes, you can get a lovely sequence of photos that you can string together.
Enjoy! Have fun! Share the sky!