Saturday, December 10, 2011

lunar eclipse

I finally saw (most of) a total lunar eclipse last night. Got up at 4:30am after a two-hour nap on an office couch, grumbled a lot about how if my parents hadn't sent me to bed before totality during the eclipse in junior high or OSSM had let us stay outside for the one in high school and if it hadn't been cloudy during the last three I tried to see I wouldn't have to settle for this one starting in the middle of the freaking night instead of comfortably in the evening hours, got the scope and binoculars set up on the roof of a building in Alameda, and was blown away for the next two hours.

About halfway through the partial eclipse, through the eyepiece of my telescope



Partial eclipse over San Francisco and the Bay Bridge
Totality

Peak Totality


totality over bay bridge; starting to get light out

And then it started to get light out. It was never unhazy, and the marine layer really started coming in towards the end, so we lost the moon entirely around 6:45. Totality ended at 6:56 and the sunrise was at 7:18, so we didn't see it emerge from totality (or the selenelion). The haze was unfortunately too thick to get a clearish picture through the telescope during totality, and you can see that even these are pretty fuzzy.

I was amazed how dark it got. Typical sequences of images of lunar eclipses vary the exposure length so that the overall brightness isn't too drastically different from the beginning to the middle of the sequence. This is of course necessary - any exposure long enough to capture the moon at peak totality would be horrendously overexposed if used to image the moon normally. Despite knowing this, I was surprised how dim the eclipsed moon was in reality.

Thoroughly awesome. As was going to sleep at 7:30 afterwards...

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