Astronomical Observing and Photography


Lunar Eclipse at 34 South
Wednesday May 26 2021
Joe Cali

Image Above: I composited 15 images throughout the eclipse to create this composite of the Earth's Umbra.
Exposures range from 1/125s to 8s, Pentax K1, ISO 800, Vixen VC200L 1280mm FL f6.4.

I spent this evening enjoying a beautiful total lunar eclipse. I set up some cameras, one wide, one telephoto and one on my Vixen VC200L telescope.

These were all being driven by intervalometers and needed little attention. The night wasn't particularly cold, only around 6C so I pulled up a chair and just enjoyed the eclipse naked eye. I was pinging sms (text) messages to various friends 160km southeast in Canberra and others in Queensland. Seems like Qld didn't have such good weather but Canberra was pretty good. My weather out here was predicted to be fairly cloudy 50%+. The prediction was wrong. There was cloud early on but I had a completely clear sky from around the time the partial started.

The eclipse was relatively bright, I estimated a Danjon Scale value of 3-4 for this eclipse. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danjon_scale
Other observers have called this a 2-3 eclipse. This sort of variation is normal.

One of the great joys observing a winter lunar eclipse from dark skies is the way the sky transforms from full moon washed out to a "new moonish" prominent Milky Way with a coppery red orb hanging nearby during totality phase. In that respect, this one didn't disappoint. The Moon grazed the very edge of the Earth's umbral shadow. I believe this was the shortest totality out of the 24 total lunar eclipses I have observed - just 14 minutes.

Among those 24 total lunar eclipse observations, I have collected a nice "collection" of unusual lunar eclipse experiences and memories.

On June 4th 1993, I observed by far the darkest eclipse I have ever seen. So dark it was difficult to see in a suburban sky and neighbours who came over during totality to have a look asked us when the Moon was going to rise. We said, "It already has." When they looked around they asked where it was and we pointed it out, it took them some time to recognise it. I have to admit that for me, and my astronomy partner in crime and best mate, Greg, who was visiting me from Brisbane, it was very memorable and we still talk about it to this day whereas we rarely discuss other lunar eclipses. We believed that the dark appearance was related to the high aerosol and volcanic dust content still in the upper atmosphere from the eruption of Mt Pinatubo in September 1991.

On July 16, 2000, I observed the longest eclipse that I will probably ever observe with totality lasting a whopping 1hr 46m. I had been in a car accident and my car had been written off. I hired a car and drove out to dark skies on a quiet country road to observe this event with the Moon planted in the central Milky Way. Finally, last night, I observed what is probably going to be the shortest totality I will ever observe with a totality duration of just 14 minutes.

On January 31, 2018, my terminally ill friend with whom I'd been chasing solar eclipses for nearly 18 years was visiting. This was his last opportunity to travel, possibly last opportunity to see an eclipse, clouds everywhere along the eastern seaboard. No pressure. Somehow, I managed to the find one spot in the whole region that had clear skies for most of the eclipse and I got to enjoy one last eclipse albeit just a lunar one, with my mate.


Image Above:  Pentax K1, ISO 800, 0.5s, Vixen VC200L 1280mm FL f6.4.     TIME: 11:10:06 UT

Image Above:  Pentax K1, ISO 800, 0.5s, Vixen VC200L 1280mm FL f6.4.     TIME: 11:12:08 UT

Image Above:  Pentax K1, ISO 800, 2s, Vixen VC200L 1280mm FL f6.4.   TIME: 11:12:08 UT