Blood Moon: Lunar Eclipse
The recent lunar eclipse provided an irresistible opportunity to immerse myself in two of my interests: space and photography. From a location in the mountains near Aspen, Colorado we set up a Takahashi 106mm Apochromatic Telescope with a Nikon 810 camera attached.
The eclipse was meant to start at 7:10 p.m. but as that time passed, it became clear that the surrounding mountains were too high and we would miss the early stages. So we piled into an SUV and headed for the peak, taking just the camera and a 200mm telephoto lens.
The first pictures that show the earth’s shadow clearly were taken with that setup, handheld. Once the moon rose further in the sky we went back and hooked up the telescope for the latter images. By that time, the moon was fully in the Earth’s shadow. Light cloud cover did interfere with the clarity to some extent. However, the camera’s sensor is amazing and showed much more color and detail than one could see through the naked eye.
Capturing these images was a challenge, in part because I had never taken images through a telescope before. The circumstances added pressure. Many facts make the eclipse of September 27, 2015 exceptional: this eclipse involved a supermoon—the moon at its closest proximity to earth. This positioning gives it a brighter appearance from earth. A total eclipse of a supermoon is extremely rare. In the last century, there were only five such eclipses with the last one being in 1982.
A full lunar eclipse happens only when the earth sits in the middle of the moon and the sun, in perfect alignment. This is referred to as syzygy. “Blood moon” is not a scientific term but is commonly used to describe the unique color the moon takes on when the earth’s shadow reflects on it. This type of eclipse is also able to be viewed with the naked eye, but that doesn’t make it any easier to photograph!
When the next such eclipse comes around, I will set up my telescope on a mountain top and make better images using the lessons I learned. I only hope I remember them in 2033!
— Robert Rosenkranz