Thebacha and Wood Buffalo Dark Sky Festival August 2017

A Partial View of a Total Lunar Eclipse

Stormy weather affords only a glimpse of the April 14/15 lunar eclipse.

Seronik-April 15 lunar eclipse

Thin clouds partly obscure the end of totality in this image of the April 14/15 total lunar eclipse. Courtesy Gary Seronik

The weather gods can be terribly unkind to astronomers. And the greater the spectacle, the more they seem to delight in tormenting us. Anyone who has travelled thousands of kilometres to see a total solar eclipse knows all too well the heart-stopping meteorological worries that invariably accompany such events. While a lunar eclipse isn’t really in the same league as a total eclipse of the Sun, both are special and infrequent enough to invite ill fate.

Conditions here in Victoria, British Columbia, couldn’t have been lovelier in the days leading up to Monday night’s lunar eclipse. Spring had finally arrived and there was even the first hint of summer in the air over the weekend. So when the big day came and grew progressively cloudier and windier, I sensed my meteorological luck had run out. By the time evening arrived, rain threatened and a 70-km-per-hour wind howled outside my window. Reluctantly, I brought my scope indoors for safety.

As Monday night transitioned into Tuesday morning, the situation seemed hopeless. But unwilling to admit defeat, I kept vigil and watched with increasing dismay as each eclipse milestone passed behind clouds. First contact with the umbra: clouds. Start of totality: clouds. Midtotality: clouds. Finally, with only ten minutes of totality left,  the weather gods blinked.

A swiftly moving sucker hole appeared, and then another, and another. Amazingly, I could glimpse stars in the gaps between clouds! With reckless haste, I grabbed the scope and camera and rushed outside. And though I set up in near-record time, the first bright sliver of the lunar disc was already emerging from the umbra as I struggled to focus the camera. To make matters worse, I could hear the telescope’s clock-drive motor labouring as its batteries faltered in the cold night air. Still, I fired off a few shots and hoped for the best.

The photo above is the result. It’s disappointing, but it is better than nothing. And it is definitely all the weather gods were prepared to allow on this blustery April morning.

Did you see or photograph the eclipse? If so, drop us a line and share your images and observations with us.

Categories: Observing Reports
2 comments on “A Partial View of a Total Lunar Eclipse
  1. David A. Rodger says:

    Hi, Gary;

    I hope you’ll say something about this dreadful term, “blood moon,” and how it has invaded almost all news reports of Monday/Tuesday’s eclipse. This term has absolutely no validity in science. It has been made popular by an evangelical Christian preacher in Texas, John Hagee, who has written a book about what he calls the “blood moon,” based on biblical prophecy.

    He has also introduced the term “tetrad” to describe a series of four total lunar eclipses, as if this were somehow significant. Indeed, he used the two terms interchangeably, so that “blood moon” also means the series of four – – a tetrad.

    We should add this to the increasingly sad list of astronomical media sensations, such as Mars being the size of the full moon; the Mayan calendar predicting the end of the world in 2012 and the faked Apollo 11 landing on the moon.

    Conclusion: The days of critical thinking and checking sources to distinguish between facts and lies by the news media must be over.

    Very sad!

  2. Hello Gary;

    We have found that weather can be a fickle mistress, it seems Mother Nature has a twisted sense of humour too.

    To photograph the harvest moon last year, Marion & I drove from our home near Red Deer, to Nose Hill, about 30 km North of Veteran Alberta to get clear skies. It was to be our first attempts at astrophotography, if you consider the “Harvest Moon” as an astronomical event. Who knew then that it would be the last of the clear skies until sometime next week.
    Looking forward to our first winter under the celestial sky armed with a telescope each, along with sound advice from Ken, Bev & the staff at All-Star Telescopes, we had such big expectations. Fall came & went in a blur of grey skies, nary a star to be seen. Comet Ison flew by unnoticed. We had hoped to photograph Ison & Lovejoy when they were close to each other. Both comets went unseen, with Ison’s demise soon after perihelion, Ison just wasn’t in the cards for us.

    News of this weeks red moon was perfect timing, Marion has the week off for vacation. We searched the Weather Network website for possible locations to see this event. It appeared that the valley bottom South of Fernie BC looked like the best bet. Winds were blowing hard in Southern Alberta & Saskatchewan and a front was moving in from the north.
    Early Monday morning we decided to stay in Alberta. Weather in BC was getting worse. We ended up near Burnt Stick Lake, about 20 kms NW of Sundre Alberta.
    We set up a Canon T3 with a Bower 8mm f3.5 fisheye lens at 11:45 in our attempt to record the whole event in time lapse format. An hour later, clouds obscured the moon completely, the night was looking like a bust, but we stayed on, hoping.
    Shortly after 2:15, the clouds broke, the moon was a deep burnt orange, Spica & Mars shone brightly close by. As Marion looked through a NexStar 5 SE, I was taking close-ups using a NexStar 6 SE with a Canon 60Da DSLR. After about 60 shots, clouds started moving in again. The time lapse was a bust after the clouds broke, the moon was too dim to be seen, Marion tried her hand with a 250mm zoom on a T3 with good results.
    Finally, after nearly a year, the purchase of 2 NexStar telescopes, a Canon 60DA along with all the other needed goodies, we finally have a few photos worth sharing.

    We will be updating the website by the weekend to show off our results.

    We can’t wait to see what the future brings, but I have a feeling the clouds will be back.

    Until then, it’s clear skies and clean lenses.

    All the best. Cheers!

Khan Scope
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