Astronomy · Obs Report · 3rd March 2007
Total Lunar Eclipse
After waiting for over an hour for Chinese Food to show up at Trevs I managed to run down to Physics for 21:00 to meet everyone. The eclipse was due to start proper at around 21:30 when the Moon would go into the Umbral shadow. In fact the Moon had been within the Eath's penumbral shadow since 20:18 but this is so faint it is often unnoticable and besides this it was actually very cloudy right up until about 21:00 causing us all to worry slightly - not that this would have stopped us from sitting in a cloudy field full of hope!
By the time the others had joined us up at the field conditions were perfect: there was not a cloud in the sky and temperatures nudging close to double figures (although it didn't feel like this after a couple of hours of sitting around!). As we sat on the driveway and prepared our photographic equipment we could clearly see the umbral shadow racing across the lunar surface, initially appearing pitch black. However, as the Moon became about a half or two thirds eclipsed its brightness dropped noticeably and we could see that the dark parts were now a deep red in colour.
By this time we had a good crowd up on the driveway which produced a lively atmosphere. Binoculars were passed around to admire the strangely three-dimensional appearance of the Moon (strange in that it usually appears 2D under normal circumstances) and behind us the Society telescope was being used by J to capture some beautiful pictures of the eclipse. We were also joined for a short while by University security who stopped and had a gaze with us. Lots of enthusiastic phone calls were made to friends and family too!
With only a thin slither of sunlight left on the top right of the Moon, gradations of colour were easily visible to the naked eye (more so than through the telescope). By this time it was more orange than red, making it quite a dark eclipse. Totality came around 10:50, the bright sunlight giving way to a slightly more illuminated top right portion, leaving the Moon looking "reminiscent of a two pence piece sitting high up above us" in the words of Andy.
We all remained in the field for most of totality, the chill just beginning to get to some of us , while the very slightly lighter portion of the Moon slid from the top right to the left and eventually brightened to normal at around midnight. Still we stayed to watch the light spread across the Moon a little more, not quite being able to believe that the weather had been so kind to us! With the chill getting intense we walked down to Kingsgate and debriefed over drinks. It had been quite a wonderful evening and as I walked home the Moon, now leaving the umbra was still an intoxicating sight. Thank you weather gods!
Once back I went through the 400 odd images I had taken throughout the event and produced this eclipse mosaic which takes you through the event from its beginnings at 21:35 and going through until 00:21 when my battery finally gave into the cold and died!
Finally this shot puts the "two pence piece" Moon in context with Regulus (Alpha Leonis) and Saturn which was also visible and was briefly observed using the Nexstar.