This eclipse of the moon came as a complete surprise. The weatherman on the eight o'clock news was the first to inform me of the upcoming eclipse that very night. A total eclipse no less! The weather circumstances would be quite good. After some hesitation I decided I couldn't miss an opportunity like that.
It wouldn't be easy, being utterly unprepared. The exact timing of the eclipse was relatively easy to be found, however exposure times turned out to be hard to come by. The full moon was gonna be OK, but from earlier experiences I knew that light estimates of the totally eclipsed moon would be awkward. Naturally, I had made notes on prior occassions, but I had never used anything but standard lenses before. Ultimately, I decided to shoot a sequence of trial exposures for each phase, e.g. for the totally eclipsed moon varying from 4 to 60 seconds.
By then, at about 10:50 p.m., the eclipse was in full swing. The first contact with the central umbra had taken place at 10:30 p.m. The part of the moon in the penumbra looked quite normal, as expected. On the other hand, the part in the umbra looked really dark. Very well then, the analogous SLR camera Olympus OM-2N stood fast on its tripod, charged with ISO 100 Elitechrome slide film, with a 200 mm f/4 Zuiko objective and 2x teleconverter. All exposures were to be taken using delayed action or cable release, with full lens opening, implying about f/5.6. My digital camera once again turned out to fail on me: the totally eclipsed moon would be invisible on the display, completely prohibiting correct focusing.
The weather was fine, clouds passing by, and it felt cold and damp. Between clouds the view was OK. The start of the total eclipse, at 11:44 p.m., took place behind a big cloud. When the moon reappeared it looked like a beautiful, deep red lamp in the sky. The red colour was of course due to light scattered by the earth's athmosphere. Until the maximum, expected at 0:21 a.m. (March 4th) the moon got darker, after that it grew lighter again. At the first touch of direct sunlight, at 0:58 a.m., the sky was cloudless and the emerging process was readily observed. Afterwards, the familiar pale white sickle gradually increased. I did not stay up to see the moon leave the central umbra altoghether, at 2:15 a.m.
The next day, I carried out a few simple calculations and guess what? Due to the earth's rotation the moon would move at a speed of 360 degrees per 24 hours, or a quarter degree per minute: about the radius of the lunar disc! Hence, all exposures of many seconds would be fuzzy by the mere self motion of the moon. In fact, all exposures of 8, 15, 30 and 60 seconds were a failure, the latter ones showing no more than an orange blur.
Fortunately, some of the exposures turned out to be acceptable after all: at 4 seconds the totally eclipsed moon showed sharp enough. Rather dark, though, but Photoshop can perform miracles... This revealed the most important disadvantage of analogous photography: all slides first had to pass through the film scanner. For these scans as well, setting exposure and focusing was awkward, indeed. Next time, I should consult a star guide well before the actual event, so I would be prepared!
Click on the thumb nails below to view the phases of the eclipse.
|10:55 pm, 1/125 s, 1/3 in central umbra||11:52 pm, 4 s, right after totality start||0:27 am, 4 s, max submersion in central umbra||0:42 am, 4 s, towards edge of central umbra|
|0:56 am, 4 s, right before first direct sun ray||0:57 am, 2 s, first direct sun ray||1:02 am, 1 s, sickle of light appearing||1:20 am, 1/60 s, the moon re-emerging|
From all available successful exposures, the following animation has been composed.
Flash 400x400, image of the moon diameter of about 200 pixels, 12 photo objects, with dissolving effect, at a rate of 20 frames per sec, 15 seconds in total, 134 kB, Flash Player required
Last updated April 15th, 2007
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