Tag Archives: eclipse

Lunar Eclipse = Front-Yard Astronomy (Photos)

One of the nice things about a lunar eclipse is how accessible it is. You don’t need binoculars or a telescope (though it helps). You don’t need protective gear. You can see it from a city street with lights on. You don’t need to be in exactly the right spot to see it, since the viewing area is measured in multiple continents rather than a narrow track. And since it lasts longer than a solar eclipse, if the clouds roll in moments before totality (which they did), you can wait a few minutes and you might still be able to see something!

The last time a lunar eclipse was visible in our area, I woke up at ridiculous-o’clock in the morning and went out to watch, first across the street, then trying to find a clear view in the west before sunrise and moonset drowned everything out.

This time I just walked out into the front yard.

Lunar eclipse mosaic
Four stages of the eclipse. I’m not sure what the star next to the moon is. As Sam points out, the star is Spica. The phone line bisecting the second view looked interesting, so I went with that rather than an unobstructed shot. In retrospect, I should have tried to frame it to look like the Death Star trench.

My son is almost 3 1/2 now, just old enough to appreciate this sort of thing, so I spent the last few days talking it up. We went out to look at the full moon early in the evening. We read a kids’ book on stargazing that he likes. I showed him pictures of what to expect, and diagrams showing how an eclipse happens. He’s been wanting to play with a tent ever since I mentioned the phrase “camping stuff” a few days ago, so we found the tent in the garage and set it up in the front yard. He had as much fun playing in the tent as he did watching the earth’s shadow move across the moon.

Katie stayed inside most of the time and came out a few times to check on progress.

At one point, an airplane flew across the sky leaving a sharp, bright contrail just next to Mars.

Moon Mars Power Lines and Contrail

We were all out just before totality around midnight…when a cloud started forming right in front of the moon. Mars, not too far away in the sky, was perfectly clear, but the moon got blurrier, and blurrier, until the razor-sharp sliver of a few minutes before was a blob of white. It reminded me of the time we saw about that much of an eclipse in San Simeon on the way up to (coincidentally) WonderCon when it was in San Francisco.

Fortunately the cloud started breaking up again after a few minutes, and all we had to do was hold up our hands to block the streetlight across the street and we had a clear view of the fully eclipsed moon. (We could see it without blocking the light, but it was a lot clearer without the competition.)

I should probably mention that while the pictures here look red, it looked brown to the naked eye. Maybe it was because the streetlight kept our eyes from adapting to the dark. Maybe the camera is more sensitive to red light. Katie remarked that without the sunlight shining on it, it really does look like what it is: a big ball of rock.

Eclipse Lineup

After a few minutes we went back inside. Neither of us wanted to stay up until two to watch the same thing in reverse…or manage an increasingly tired and distracted three-year-old while doing so.

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Photos: Solar Eclipse from Los Angeles (May 2012)

I had several plans for viewing today’s solar eclipse, depending on the weather. As the hour approached and clouds loomed in the west, I decided that my best bet would be to get above the cloud cover, and drove up into the hills to Del Cerro Park at the top of the Palos Verdes peninsula.

I’m glad I did, because a lot of other people had the same idea.

Individuals, couples, families, groups of friends, groups from schools — and everyone had a different way to see the eclipse: pinhole cameras, binoculars projecting on cardboard, welding helmets, “eclipse glasses” and more. There were also people who were just out for a day at the park, and wanted to know what was going on.

If J had been a few years older it would have been a family event for us too, but at a year and a half, I don’t think I would have been able to explain anything beyond “don’t look at the sun.” A partial eclipse is easy to miss if you’re not paying attention.

Eclipse Watchers

I’d cobbled together a pinhole camera the day before from two Amazon boxes, a sheet of paper, a sheet of aluminum foil, and lots and lots of packing tape. I actually started with just one box and I decided the image wasn’t big enough, so I grafted on a second. Even then it was only about 3/8″ across, but when testing it I could see the edges of clouds drifting across the sun, so I figured it would work. It did. Continue reading

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Lunar Eclipse and Sunrise (With Photos)

Just yesterday, I had no idea there was going to be a lunar eclipse this morning. Then I skimmed an article somewhere and got the impression it was only going to be visible on the east coast, And then I read about it on Bad Astronomy and realized I had it backward. Not only would I be able to see part of the eclipse, but I’d be able to see the moon in totality! All I had to do was get up early in the morning and find a place with a clear view of the western horizon. I considered driving down to the beach at 5am, but thought I’d start out by seeing how visible it was from home. As it turns out, I should have gone to the beach to start with, but I had some good viewing before I left.

So I set my alarm, woke up at 5am (plus the snooze button), and went out to see what I could see. To my surprise, I actually had a decent view of the partially-eclipsed moon from across the street. It was about half-covered at this point (as shown in the first photo above). So I stayed out there for a few minutes deciding what I wanted to do, went back in to have some coffee and breakfast, then went back out shortly before 6 to watch as the umbra covered the disc the rest of the way. I found it interesting that it didn’t look particularly reddish this time, just brown.

Awesome viewing, though it was clear the moon would dip below the roofs of the houses soon. I needed a less obstructed view.

As soon as the moon went into totality, I went back inside, woke up Katie just enough to let her know I was going, tossed the rest of my coffee in a travel mug and hightailed it down to the beach. Continue reading

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Eclipse Ring

Eclipse Ring
Eclipse Ring, originally uploaded by Kelson.

I found this while looking through a box of old photos, in an envelope marked Lunar Eclipse and developed in June 1994. Most likely the May 25, 1994 eclipse.

I’m not sure, but I think the bright splotch near the bottom is actually the moon, and the clear image of the moon up near the top is a reflection inside the camera. I have no idea whether the ring is an atmospheric phenomenon that got picked up on the film, or just lens flare.

Anyway, scanned because I thought it looked interesting.

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Mauna Kea Sky Shadow

Today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day features a view of Mauna Kea’s shadow on the sky, just at the tail end of last week’s lunar eclipse:

Mauna Kea Shadow

I couldn’t help but be reminded of our visit to the summit in April 2005, just at sunset, when I took this similar (but decidedly less cool) photo:

Shadow of the Mountain

Atmospheric Optics explains why most mountains’ shadows look triangular when viewed from their summits.

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Strange Visitors

There’s been a surprising number of visitors today to my post about getting up at 2:30 A.M. for last August’s lunar eclipse. Strangely enough, they’re not only looking for the same phrase, “lunar eclipse pictures,” but they have the exact same referrer, down to options and encoding. The fp-today parameter leads me to suspect that some module on Yahoo’s homepage (not one I can see, though) included a link to this set of search results. Though I suppose it could have been a newsletter or a blog with more regular readers than mine.

Another surprise: visits from commentary on last night’s Clinton/Obama debate. The comment thread includes a link to my post on JMS’s Londo/G’Kar campaign signs. Found while skimming the comments for links: T-shirts for the Capricorn ticket, Roslin/Airlock.

And then there’s the surge in searches for the Black Flash, no doubt inspired by people reading today’s Something Positive strip. In addition to landing directly on the profile, people are coming in from the Wikipedia article, and finding Flash Foreshadowing via an image search.

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And I Will Drive 500 More

I’ve driven 500 miles in the last 2 days. We’re heading up to San Francisco for WonderCon this weekend, stopping along the way to visit friends in Silicon Valley and my brother and his fiancee in San Francisco. We ended up with an extra day at the beginning of the trip, which we used to visit Hearst Castle.

We left around mid-morning on Wednesday, driving through 2 hours of crappy Los Angeles traffic until things finally cleared up out toward Ventura. Along the way we saw something we’d never seen before: Our Prius runs in part on a battery, which is recharged by the gas engine, by coasting, and by braking. It has an 8-bar battery gage that mostly moves around in the 2–7–bar range. Heading down the pass into Camarillo, for the first time, I saw it fill all 8 bars.

We took the 101 most of the way, branching off at San Luis Obispo to take Pacific Coast Highway up to San Simeon. With all the rain we’ve had this winter, the countryside is amazingly green. The last few times I remember taking the 101 up the coast, it was summer, so the hills were all golden brown. We lucked out with the weather: instead of the constant rain I was expecting from the forecast, we only had scattered showers.

We spent Wednesday night in San Simeon. Dinner was at a restaurant called The Sow’s Ear in Cambria, which was very good.

Blurry Lunar Eclipse through cloudsWe actually managed to see the lunar eclipse. Sort of. The cloud cover was just light enough to see the bright sliver shortly before totality. It screened out the reddish light completely. I have a blurry picture of the just-as-blurry eclipse.

Neptune Pool at Hearst CastleThursday morning we went to Hearst Castle for the morning’s first tour. We didn’t get the one we wanted (Tour 2) because it didn’t start until 9:20, and we wanted to get to San Jose by 5:00. If I could make one change to their website, it would be to list actual tour times. We got rained on a bit, but it was a good overview of just how eclectic the house is. Basically, if William Randolph Hearst was traveling and saw a piece of a building that he liked, he’d buy it, ship it back to California, and have it built into his house.

After stopping briefly in Cambria, we took highway 46 across the hills to catch up with the 101 and head north to San Jose. Partly I wanted to avoid the long, twisty, cliffside stretches of PCH, and partly we wanted to avoid getting caught in the bike race. The route goes past cattle ranches, empty hills, and wineries. At one point there’s a fantastic view of Morro Bay off in the distance. (Update: We took the same drive a year later and caught the view in the sunlight)

View of Morro Bay and Morro Rock from Highway 46

We made it to San Jose around 4:30, and managed to get tickets for the last tour of the Winchester Mystery House. Yes, we toured two big, rambling mansions in one day. It was interesting to compare the way the tours treated the two places. With Hearst Castle, it was very much a museum tour. Everything was preserved as exactly as possible, including all the furniture and decorations, and they admonished you not to touch anything. And the docents were walking encyclopedias. With Winchester, it was much more casual. The speeches felt more canned, and the tour guide wasn’t concerned with anybody touching anything except for a few places where the floors or tiles were still original.

After the tour, we met up with our friends for dinner. I don’t remember the name of the place, but it was a tapas restaurant on Santana Row. Also quite good. Edit: Katie points out that it was called Consuelo.

Tomorrow: On to San Francisco. Not sure whether we’re going to WonderCon on Friday or not—it depends on what else is available (since they keep promising massive downpours of rain)—but we’ll definitely be going on Saturday. For one thing, I’m hoping to get to the premiere of Justice League: New Frontier. I really liked Darwyn Cooke’s original mini-series linking the dawn of the Silver Age and the dawn of the space age, and what I’ve seen of the animation style looks quite promising.

OK. It’s 11:30. Time to get some sleep.

Update: filling in a few pictures.

Continued in: Saturday/WonderCon and Friday–Sunday

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Lunar Eclipse pics

I decided to go for it, and set my alarm for 2:30 AM (ick) to see the eclipse. The moon was nearing totality at that point, with a too-shallow crescent near the bottom and the rest in slightly reddish shadow. My original plan was to lie down on the balcony and watch, but it turned out there was a tree in the way, but if I went over to the other end, by the patio table, I was able to see it.

I watched as the crescent shrank to a sliver, and finally the moon was shaded dark red to dull red to light red to a much dimmer white than usual. The deeper reds slowly spread across its face, edging out the brighter colors near the edge of the Earth’s shadow.

I brought my cheesy little digital camera, and took some photos. It promptly started warning me the battery was low, and I had to dig around in the dark to find the spare. I think this is the best of the pictures, as far as showing the eclipsed moon itself goes:

Moon in eclipse
Eclipsed Moon, 3:13 AM

Earlier in the evening I was testing different shutter settings. I thought this photo from the floor of the balcony turned out interesting:

Balcony lit by full moon

Yes, that’s lit by moonlight (in a long exposure).

OK, I’m going out to take one last look at the moon (I think I heard the downstairs neighbors’ door open a few minutes ago, so at least I’m not the only one up for this) and then go back to bed. I’ll look through my photos again tomorrow and post anything else that looks good.

Update: Here’s a shot from deeper in totality, just after the mid-point of the eclipse:

Lunar Eclipse - orange moon
Eclipsed Moon, 3:40 AM

PleiadesAnd here’s the Pleiades, which I spotted when I turned around and looked up. A far cry from this, but hey, I figured I was doing pretty well to be getting photos of stars with this type of camera in the first place.

I think the last time I saw the Pleiades, Hyades, Taurus and Orion in August, I was something like 14 and on a trip with my scout troop to do whitewater rafting. We slept out under the stars and I just happened to wake up at 3 in the morning.

OK, sleep is calling to me. Signing off…

Update 2: After I went to bed, I realized that I shouldn’t have dismissed my idea of scrounging up some film and pulling my manual SLR camera out of the closet. Between the better optics, more shutter control, and an actual telephoto lens, I probably would have gotten considerably better pictures. I just don’t think we have any rolls of film lying around that haven’t expired, and I didn’t want to run out at 11:00 to get some. Ah, well. Something to think about for next time.

Also, I realized that these blurry pictures look kind of like a Moon-sized version of Mars. Hmm, that might confuse some people. ;-)

Update 3: You have to check out Thursday’s APOD: an incredible telescopic image of the moon taken during totality.

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Lunar Indecision

I’m still trying to decide whether I should set an alarm to wake myself up at ski-o’clock in the morning to see tonight’s/tomorrow’s lunar eclipse. I mean, I skipped the Perseid meteor shower a few weeks ago, but that would have required not only getting up in the wee hours of the night, but driving somewhere with less light pollution.

I mean, I should be able to walk outside and look out at a blood-red moon… at 3:00 in the morning.


(links via BA Blog)

Update: Ah, the wonders of text search and delayed indexing. It seems that lots of people are searching for the phrase, “eclipse tomorrow,” leading to a spike in hits to this entry from last March… even though today’s post would be a more appropriate destination.

Update 2: I went for it. Here’s my write-up.

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Lunar Eclipse Tomorrow

There’s a lunar eclipse tomorrow. It looks like we’ll only get to see the tail end of it here in California, right at moonrise. Europe and Africa get to see the whole thing.

Interestingly, the map of where the eclipse will be visible manages to cover the major land masses almost exactly. The only region that won’t see it at all is the Pacific Ocean.

(via SANS ISC)

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