Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Fine Night for an Eclipse!

The last time a Total Lunar Eclipse occurred on the day of the December Solstice (winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere) was in 1638.

Of course I pulled an all-nighter! (Grin)

I took the above shot a few minutes before totality. It's one of 89 photos in this video:

Solstice Total Lunar Eclipse, December 21 2010 (Click on the title if the embedded video doesn't show up.)

I took these photos roughly between 1:30 and 5:00 a.m. Eastern time. I used various shutter speeds and aperture sizes, not only to adapt to the changing face of the Moon but also to get detail in parts of the Moon that were both in and out of umbra (shadow). I set my Konica-Minolta DiMAGE Z6 on its maximum 12x optical zoom. Its longest exposure setting is four seconds.

Last night wasn't as bone-chillingly cold as the night Mary and I observed the Geminid meteor shower, but it was still plenty nippy outside. I dressed in thermals under my clothes and added my fleece socks, winter coat, neck gaiter, cowl, cap, and gloves, before grabbing my camera on its tripod and stepping out to the driveway.

The Moon was close to zenith when I began photographing. I had to get down on my knees and train my camera lens straight up, making small adjustments to my tripod every time I took a shot. Mostly due to the Earth's rotation, the Moon appears to move half a degree (which is also its own width as seen from Earth) every two minutes. Each time, I had to take off my gloves to adjust the settings and set the automatic shutter release while craning my neck.

My fingers are no longer cold, but my hips and thighs are still a little stiff. That said, the night was worth every creak!

Mary came outside for part of the eclipse. I went inside for a fresh change of batteries, especially since I couldn't get a decent focus during the darkest part of totality.

Several meteors streaked overhead during the eclipse as well. Around 3:45 a.m. Eastern time, a dazzling one sailed roughly SW to NW, originating in Orion and visible for about three seconds, breaking into two pieces before it burned out.

When I started photographing I heard the occasional laughing call of a bird I couldn't identify, but it quieted down as more and more of the Moon became covered. I heard other birds as the Moon emerged from shadow.

By the time the eclipse neared its end, Venus (the bright dot above the houses) was rising in the east. I took this shot around 5 a.m.

Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other Journeys
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