Longest lunar eclipse of the 21st century

At 2.00 am on Saturday 28 July 2018 I met up with good friend David Marriott to shoot the lunar eclipse. For a week before the event the weather forecasts looked far from promising. Ironically we were hoping for cold frosty weather which usually is encouraged by clear skies.

Fortunately we were greeted by clear dark skies with great viewing conditions. Cloud was expected to move in from South Australia later that morning but held off until about 830 am!

We set up our telescopes eagerly, I was excited because it was the first big event since I had purchased David's 8 inch GSO. Also, had recently taken delivery of my EQ5 pro mount. I piggy backed my Nikon D850 DSLR onto my scope using a Losmandy mount which did a brilliant job.

In addition , I operated my other camera from a tripod, the idea was to try and capture the setting moon (which would be fully eclipsed) in the pre dawn sky using my Nikkor 200-500 mm lens usually used for bird photography. My plan was to shoot a time lapse of the whole event with the camera mounted on my telescope with the Nikkor 28-300 mm lens set at 300 mm and at f8. I used the settings recommended by Mr Eclipse which were very helpful. With retrospect, I would incease the exposure lengths from the 1/30 of a second recommended to around half a second for that 10 minutes prior to the moon becoming fully covered by the Earth's shadow.

David took a number of AVI movies at certain stages of the eclipse to stack and these turned out brilliantly and these images plus his animation are a work of art. These images can be viewed on David's facebook page: David Marriott's Fun with photography: https://www.facebook.com/dmfwp/

I was very happy with my results.

The first image shows David and I with our scopes and various cameras set up.

Photo credit: David Marriott.

The next image shows some of the stages of the eclipse: the full moon before the Moon entered the Earth's penumbra, the second shot showing some of the shadowing caused by the Earth's penumbra. The next 4 shots show the progressive movement of the Earth's umbra across the lunar surface and the final, the moon fully eclipsed. The moon appears red because some light (long wave length red light) reaches the moon's surface due to Rayleigh scattering. This phenomenon is also the reason the red colours seen at sunrise and sunset.

As mentioned before this was the longest lunar eclipse to be seen this century. Totality (the period when the Moon was fully covered by the Earth's umbra spanned 1 hour 42 minutes and 57 seconds.This was firstly because the Moon passed nearly through the center of the Earth's umbra and secondly because the Moon was near apogee.

The difference in the brightness and colour of the eclipsed Moon from just after it was fully covered by the Earth's shadow to the time when it was near the center of the Earth's shadow was quite apparent. Once the skies started to lighten just after 6:30 pm, the Moon was hard to spot due to its relative darkness.

The Moon early on in totality:

The Moon a few minutes before the middle period of totality:

Both shots above were taken at 300 mm, f8, exposed for 1 second at ISO 400 on the D850 mounted and hence tracked on the EQ5 pro mount.

The last is a shot showing the fully eclipsed Moon and Mars which was near opposition (to occur on 30 July) setting over the mountains near Canberra, ACT, Australia.

Overall, it was a most enjoyable event even if some shots were taken in minus 3 degrees! Thanks too to David Marriott for his great company and for assistance with setting up my mount!


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