by Adam Welbourn
No you’re not seeing things, this isn’t our upcoming monthly guide for October!
Being an amateur astronomer from the UK, more often than not I’m resigned to the fact that a lot of awe-inspiring celestial events only ever seem to happen for other people. Usually I’ll defend the infamous British weather, telling people it’s not as bad as the rest of the globe believes, but if bad weather can ruin a “must see” astronomical event most of the time it won’t fail to disappoint.
It was with some trepidation I set up the telescope on Sunday evening, with hopes of viewing the lunar eclipse up close and personal after surprisingly promising weather forecasts.
The skies darkened, and there were no clouds.
Then the Moon started to rise, and there were no clouds.
Then midnight came and went, and still the Moon shone as brightly as I’ve ever seen it before. This was going to happen!
I’ll admit despite the best of intentions I’ve not used my scope for far too long, but it wasn’t about to let months of neglect stop it performing. Through the eyepiece there it was, the first hints of the umbral shadow…
By this time the scope was already very cold, so on impulse I draped an old picnic blanket around it. This in hindsight probably did enough to stave off the dreaded dew which has interrupted many an evening observing!
It’s difficult to describe seeing something so familiar appearing so completely alien, and it happening minute by minute in front of your eyes.
In short time we’d gone from bright full Moon to a slim crescent of light, and it’s after this point the beauty of the Moon in full eclipse really starts to become apparent…
Time for a quick trip indoors to get the kettle on, just to take the edge off!
The first time I saw a lunar eclipse I was struck by how much more three dimensional the Moon appears when experiencing totality. When lit directly by the Sun, the Moon always appears two dimensional, no matter what phase.
I should have been in bed hours ago! I could hear nothing but the quiet hum of my scope leisurely tracking the Blood Moon across the sky, and the occasional snap as my camera took another image.
But I wasn’t about to let the camera get the best view, so I took it off so I could have an ogle through the scope myself, and connected a regular lens for a much wider look.
It’s amazing how many more stars are visible during eclipse, we’re used to seeing so few with the Moon in the sky it’s fantastic to have them both so beautifully on display, and unaffected by bad weather!
It had been a great few hours stood in the dark, marvelling at the show going on over head. Watching close up you could almost see the umbral shadow moving in front of your eyes.
It was now 5am and I was supposed to be getting up in 2 hours…
Was it worth fighting to stay awake at work all through Monday? Absolutely.
Will I do it again? Weather allowing!
I’m British after all :)
Images captured using:
Sky-Watcher Explorer 200P EQ5 PRO SynScan 200mm Newtonian Reflector Telescope
Canon EOS 550D (Unmodified)
Canon 50mm f/1.8mm II Lens
I’m hoping to learn how to properly process the RAW images I got so I may post again once these are cleaned up a little!