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Supermoon and Total Lunar Eclipse – September 28th 2015

September 28, 2015 Leave a comment

IMG_0336Supermoon at 12:19 am 28/9/15 Equinox ED80 Canon 350d @ prime focus

OK so I am going to try and update this post tonight as the combined supermoon and total lunar eclipse progress. The post may become more incoherent as tiredness takes over, but we will see how far we get ! If you don’t know what I am talking about and you live in the UK, Western Europe, West Africa, Greenland, Iceland or North America then take a look at the info. here Astronomy Now Magazine – Total Lunar Eclipse

Tonight we have a rare treat. The Moon is currently at perigree ie. it’s closest approach to Earth in its elliptical orbit. This means that the Moon will appear approximately 8% larger than normal and this event is popularly referred to as a ‘supermoon’. But there’s more ! The Moon is also aligned fully within the Earth’s shadow and will therefore darken dramatically to a deep brownish red colour at totality between 3.11am and 4.23am (BST). The red colour is caused by light from the Sun passing through Earth’s atmosphere around the edge of the globe. The blue light of our atmosphere is scattered more easily, but the red light of the various sunsets and sunrises around the edge makes it through and is projected onto the surface of the Moon.

Currently the sky is clear and the supermoon looks fantastic over the roof of our house. I have a Skywatcher Equinox ED 80 refractor mounted on an EQ6 equatorial mount which is computer driven so that it tracks the Moon. Photographs are being taken with my rather ancient Canon 350D DSLR mounted directly onto the telescope tube at prime focus and  using the telescope as the lens. Focusing is a bit hit and miss with this setup as the 350D does not have a Liveview that you can zoom so I have to get the focus set up as close as possible via the small viewfinder and then view each shot zoomed in, re-focus, take another shot and view zoomed in it etc. until the focus looks good.

The eclipse action starts at 1.12am (BST) when the Moon starts to enter the Earth’s shadow in the penumbral phase. We won’t notice anything until 2.07am (BST) though when the umbral phase begins and we see the Earth’s shadow creep across the top left limb of the Moon.

UPDATE 4.28 am….. Well the live thing didn’t work out as I had to constantly monitor the setup and change the camera exposure settings throughout to capture the full red colouring and change of light. Have to say that was bloody fantastic to watch !!! 4.15 am and I am still wide awake with excitement 🙂 Anyway here are a few photos through to maximum  totality at 3.47am and beyond…..

IMG_03442.26 (BST) Quarter Shadow

IMG_03482.54 (BST) Half Shadow

IMG_03613.16 (BST) Red colouring appears

IMG_03633.21 (BST)

IMG_03683.28 (BST)

IMG_0383Maximum Totality 3.59 (BST)

IMG_03864.01 (BST)

Getting reacquainted with the Moon – 26th April 2015

video0037-15-04-26-20-59-11vdbalt

Above: The four large, dark, roughly circular, lava-filled basins of Mare Crisium (far right), Mare Fecunditatis (below Crisium), Mare Tranquilitatis (left of Crisium), Mare Serenitatis (top). The lunar maria are approximately 3.5 billion years old.

It’s been a few years now since I have had some quality time scanning across the surface of the Moon with the Vixen 4.5″ refractor. It was a crisp and clear night and the stars seemed steady so I thought the atmospheric seeing would be good for photography using the Imaging Source DMK41 mono video camera. How wrong I was ! As the surface came into focus on the laptop screen all I could see was a rapidly shifting blur. This kind of atmospheric wobbling always seems similar to looking through the surface of a stream with a gentle current, everything is rippling at the surface and you can’t quite see the detail on the stony bottom. And yet, on the odd fleeting occasion, moments of near steadiness did appear, as if windscreen wipers had brushed aside the smearing. I found that if you timed it right you could pause the recording run during the blurred phases and then set the video running again when it cleared. This built up enough relatively clear frames in a run of 1200-1400 to extract about 50 for aligning and stacking in Registax 6. This software really is a marvel at sorting out the good frames from the poor once you have found the optimal settings and these images would simply not have been possible without it.

Appenine-Mountains-Mt-Hadley

Above: The southern edge of the Imbrium Basin with its south east edge defined by the peaks of the Appenine Mountain range. The large crater right on the terminator (boundary between dark and light) is Archimedes with Autolycus to the right and Aristillus above that. The crater bottom right is Manilius. The peaks in the mountain range, picked out by a cap of bright light, are between 1-2km high. Apollo 15 explored one of these massifs when it landed near Mount Hadley, which is the brightest peak at centre right

Ptolemaeus-Alphonsus-Arzachel

Above: The string of three large craters on the terminator at the centre of the image are (top to bottom) Ptolemaeus, Alphonsus and Arzachel. The large craters Hipparchus and Albategnius lie to the right of Ptolemaeus

video0038-15-04-26-21-05-09vdb2alt

Above: A nice wide view of the south east quarter of the Moon with the Altai Scarp picked out nicely south west of Mare Nectaris, numerous bright ejecta rays and the densely cratered southern polar region.