Monday, September 28, 2015

Lunar Eclipse Trip to Inks Lake

Last night was the "Supermoon Lunar Eclipse," and eclipse that got alot more media attention that previous eclipses in this tetrad. I had great plans for imaging the eclipse, improving on my previous effort. I especially wanted to set up a tracking mount to get better star fields.

The weather, however, had other plans for me. Given the cloudy forecast and the fact that it was a "work night," I decided to scale back the effort. The cloud cover was terrible all day Sunday. Checking the "Clear Sky Clock" web site, showed that the cloud cover would be better to the west. I packed the camera and a tripod and headed out to Inks Lake State Park, a bit over an hour west of home. I left the fancy tracking equipment at home so that I would not have as much take down time.

At the park, I did a bit of birding at the new blind. Not too much other than feeder birds but I did catch some shots of this Eastern Phoebe hunting from the park bench.

560mm, f/8, 1/250, ISO-1600

For the eclipse, I moved up the road to the scenic overlook. The cloud cover along the eastern horizon was heavy but I had high hopes that things would clear up soon.

560mm, f/8, 1/10, ISO-1600

The moon made a quick appearance in a sucker hole soon after the moon entered the penumbra - not enough to be evident in this picture. It then quickly vanished back into the clouds giving occasional hazy views. I could tell that the eclipse was happening due to the progressive dimming of the moonlight behind the clouds. I could also tell that the last part of the moon to enter the umbra was the two or three o'clock position.

560mm, f/8, 1/50, ISO-200

Soon after 9pm, the disk started to be more apparent. Over the course of the next hour and a half, the brightest edge of the lunar disk rotated from the two o'clock position to the seven o'clock position. The sky cleared up during that period with occasional haze passing across the moon, dimming it. This image was taken during one of the brighter moments at 10:15pm. It was clear enough to image some stars in Pisces. Once again, I was struck by the impression that the moon no longer looked like a bright flat disk but rather a three-dimensional beach ball floating in the sky. Due to the exposure time, this image looks brighter and redder than it would appear to the naked eye.

560mm, f/8, 1", ISO-3200
Not having a tracking mount, I kept the exposure to under 1 second. With the f/8 lens combination, this required exposure at ISO-3200 resulting in a lot of post processing work to clean up the noise.

At about 10:25pm, the moon began to exit the umbra and a bright crescent began to form, swamping out the exposure of the dimmer orange disk. During the April 2014 eclipse, and the October 2014 eclipse, I had been able to see a pronounced blue tinging just before the moon began to leave the umbra due to ozone layer absorption of red light. During this eclipse, I was barely able to see the phenomenon. The brightness of the lunar disk in this image is closer to how it would appear to the naked eye.

560mm, f/8, 1/10, ISO-3200
Appropriate for the moment, but perhaps not for a campground, someone below began playing a recording of Also sprach Zarathustra as the crescent appeared. That degenerated into Pink Floyd and strobe lights ... making it just about time to pack up. On the drive home, I stopped once at  11pm to catch a shot of the moon two thirds of the way out of the umbra.

560mm, f/8, 1/500, ISO-800
My brother-in-law, Ross Cunniff, had better luck with the weather and caught some very nice shots from Colorado which he posted on his blog. He has also created an animation of the eclipse from frames taken every two minutes and added some native-american sounding moon mood music.

All images taken with Canon 7DII, EF 100-400mm II, EF Extender 1.4x III. Flash for the birds, none for the moon.

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