Total Lunar Eclipse 2011 December 10

Predictably, after a week of clear, sunny weather a storm front moved in over Victoria late Friday carrying thick cloud and thunderstorms. Weather prospects for the night of the eclipse (Saturday/Sunday) were generally bad to terrible. Torrential downpours lashed the observing site on the afternoon of the eclipse followed by intermittent showers. After moonrise the full Moon could be discerned briefly through thinner parts of cloud, but as the partial phases of the eclipse commenced the Moon was completely hidden by clouds and there were no obvious cloud breaks moving in. The overall feeling was one of deep disappointment. More out of hope than expectation I set up my equipment, covered it up, and waited for any sign of improvement.

After midnight, the cloud cover started to break up and Jupiter and then some of the brighter stars appeared through gaps in the thinning cloud. Frustratingly, as totality commenced, an evil-looking black cloud persistently covered the Moon despite the entire constellation of Orion, just 10 away, being visible for 15-20 minutes through a clear patch of sky. Tantalisingly brief glimpses of the eclipsed Moon appeared through tiny gaps in the cloud, though clearer skies were moving in from the south west that would eventually reveal the eclipsed Moon in a relatively clear patch of sky. This occurred around 01:52 EDT as totality was drawing to a close. The respite from clouds was short-lived as they moved in again around 02:12 bringing the cosmic light-show to a close (for us ground-based observers, anyway).

Here's a few images taken with a Canon 450DH camera and 500mm f/4 lens combination mounted on a Synta NEQ-6 Pro tracking the Moon.

 

01:53, 5 sec exposure. Totality is over as the Moon just starts to leave the umbra; the sunlit portion is over-exposed to show the delicate umbral shadow colours. Note the background stars of Taurus - stars fainter than 11th magnitude are recorded here.

01:56, 1 sec exposure; the sunlit portion is less over-exposed to give a better balance between shadow and sun-lit regions of the Moon.

02:05; the sunlit portion is growing rapidly as the Moon moves further out of the umbral shadow.

02:12; clouds start to roll in signalling the end of the cosmic light show.

 

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