Eclipse

eclipsed moon

Coming home from a meeting after dark, I found myself walking up the hollow just as the lunar eclipse was getting underway. When I got up to the top, I stood watching among the pines until it reached totality. The trees’ shadows grew fainter and fainter until they disappeared altogether. Meanwhile, the stars had grown much brighter.

eclipsed moon with Saturn 1

I starting snapping pictures about five minutes later. From my front porch, the moon had just cleared the treetops. Astronomers had said it might turn an interesting shade of orange or red because it would be passing through the outer part of the umbra, and it didn’t disappoint, changing color from minute to minute. There were also some very thin strattus clouds that altered the hue from second to second, as in the following shot. (That’s Saturn in the lower left. Regulus appears above the moon in the last shot.)

eclipsed moon with Saturn 2

Unaware of coming, going,
I turn back alone.
Caught in the midnight sky,
The moon silvering all.
–Eun, 1232-1301
(from Zen Poems of China and Japan, tr. Lucien Stryk and Takahashi Ikemoto)

Where is your Buddhist enlightenment now? MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

eclipsed moon with Saturn and Regulus

Via Negativa!
Via Negativa!
Via Negativa!

(O.K., must cut down on watching political speeches on YouTube.)

UPDATE: See also Shai Gluskin’s great series of eclipse photos.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

27 Comments


  1. Wow, great photos! Over here, I was so disappointed that the clouds moved in tonight. I do remember one awesome red lunar eclipse we did see some years ago.

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  2. Fantastic! I went for a walk with the camera to try and catch it, but there was more cloud cover than I’d thought and I missed it.

    Ah, well. There’s always 2010.

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  3. Thank you for these photographs, Dave. We, too, had the moon hidden by cloud. Won’t be around to see the next lunar eclipse, which is I understand, in 2050.

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  4. Gorgeous shots, thank you for sharing.
    (I hate to think of what might come over you if you started watching the kind of political spoofs that send me into orbit) Watch the Moon, Not the Finger! Watch the Moon, not the…”
    excuse me.

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  5. Woo hoo! Great shots. I watched here from the front porch, or I should say I went out several times to check on it and come back in – it was very cold here. Quite a bit of cloud cover (couldn’t see any stars), but it was still visible.

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  6. Wow. It was cloudy here, too, the moon visible, but not with such clarity and the ruddy hues were barely discernible.

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  7. Gorgeous shots; thank you for posting them. My camera’s broken (plus wouldn’t have been up to the task in any event) so I just stood outside and marveled, myself.

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  8. Wonderful shots. Thanks so much for sharing this. Shouting forgivable in the circumstances.

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  9. Stacy was outside with the opera glasses. I can’t work the damn things, but I did take a look. It was quite a sight — your pictures are incredible! We have the same camera… how did you get those shots to turn out so good?

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  10. Oh, these are spectacular, Dave!

    I came back up the mountain after a really good day and a lovely dinner, all floating and content, and this is what was happening in the sky. Unfortunately, it was approximately the temperature of a walk-in freezer outside, with Arctic wind, so Gilly and I had to do short trips outside punctuated by windowed versions to admire the process .

    But wow.

    Nice one, universe.

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  11. Hey, thanks for all the comments! It’s fun hearing what everyone else saw, or didn’t see. It was cold here – around 10F I guess. Anyone watch this from a hot tub, or under the influence of something? (You don’t have to say what.)

    I don’t usually live-blog events, as y’all know, but I make an exception for the moon. (I also did the conjunction with Venus last year – see my moon set on Flickr.)

    Gina Marie – To take night shots with the FinePix S5200, you do need a tripod. I use a cheap hand-me-down, which my brother bought at KMart, I think, for around 15 bucks some years ago. Then I turn the little icon wheel to the Muslim star and crescent: that’s the automatic setting for night-time or crepuscular shots. Third, on the menu, click Self-Timer (first item) and set it for a 2-second delay. Then zoom in and focus, as usual, and if you don’t want the moon at the center of the picture, be sure to keep your finger on the shutter as you adjust the frame (otherwise it will attempt to re-focus on the darkness). When you get the frame where you want it, tighten the tripod with your free hand, push the shutter in the rest of the way, and stand back. Do not breathe or chant slogans until after the camera has done its thing. Repeat as necessary until fingers become too numb to operate the controls. Very little adjustment will be necessary in the virtual darkroom aside from optional sharpening via Unsharp Mask. I didn’t touch Color Balance, Hue/Saturation, or Brightness/Contrast for these shots.

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  12. I’m glad you found Shai’s terrific photos (perhaps because I came directly to your site from his? or maybe you were already reading him; the internet is full of coincidences.) I’d seen both of your posts in my aggregator this morning and had them mentally queued up as the post-Eclipse places I wanted to visit.

    My eclipse poem keeps getting shorter. Revision is like that sometimes. I’ll post it soon — or maybe Monday, since it feels like a tangential response to the “weather” prompt at readwritepoem, and that’s when the next “get your poem on” post will go live…

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  13. Rachel – Shai’s been in my blogroll for quite some time, actually. He and I first connected in the comment threads at Velveteen Rabbi close to two years ago.

    I’m looking forward to that poem (but if I were you, I NEVER would’ve mentioned it before it was done – very bad luck).

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  14. Well Dave — I’m impressed with your FUJI. My Canon would absolutely not autofocus on the moon. With really cold ungloved fingers I had set it to manual focus. If I didn’t take a pic every 30 seconds or so — then the camera would auto-shut off (I probably could have changed that setting, but didn’t want to fuss in the middle of a drama of nature). When it auto shut off, it automatically re-set to auto-focus and I’d have to get my out my cold fingers again.

    My tripod is of the $15 variety as well. I think I understand why now, I’d set it all up, take my hand of the control and voila — the moon disappeared from the screen! I just tried to meditate on Ansel Adams and what he had to put up with. :)

    I think the most amazing thing about my shots is that about 30 yards from where I was standing were two very powerful urban-strength halogen street lights — which didn’t seem to affect things much. Though maybe that explains why Dave got stars in his pics and I didn’t.

    One shouldn’t give up on nature when living in the middle of a city — but I still longed for central PA after reading Dave’s post and seeing the stars in his pics.

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  15. Shai (and Natalie in London) – I was actually wondering last night how much of this would be visible to people in cities. Many of the excellent photos at SpaceWeather.com were taken in urban settings, which adds considerably to the charm of those photos, I think. I just reprised my last shot here over at Visual Soma, because I do like the view with the surrounding stars the best. At the larger size, I can count ten stars plus Saturn. Not all of those were visible to the naked eye, of course, but having so many in the frame does come close to approximating the feeling of seeing the moon in the company of the winter constellations.

    Glad to hear you’re also getting by with a cheap tripod, Shai. I don’t think I could manage without auto focus, though – either my eyes or the camera’s LCD display just aren’t good enough for me to get a sharp image using manual. I guess it was kind of cold last night, given that it was 3 degrees this morning.

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  16. Spectacular, gorgeous photos Dave.

    I had just a glimpse here in NJ while out with the dog. I think I waited too late to go looking.

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  17. Dave — though I would have preferred that my Canon S2 IS’s autofocus were working… since the subject was 384,403 km away I didn’t exactly have to fuss with the impossible-to-use manual preview focus or whatever it is. I could just press on the “up” arrow until it was focussed at the maximum distance. If the subject had been more like 15 ft. from me, requiring a more subtle use of the manual focus, I would have looked for the nearest cliff to jump off of.

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  18. Oh, I see. Of course! Duh. (Now you know just how limited my grasp of the technical aspects of photography is.)

    Laura – Sorry you didn’t get a better view, but a brief glimpse is evidently better than a lot of people got.

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  19. Nice shots! It was cloudy here, but we got a few clear views and a lot of nice coronas. (Coronae?)

    Anyway, the eclipse of last March looked red here at timems, but not this one. The un-veiling portion was all too cloudy to see though.

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  20. So glad you took these, Dave. We stood outside in the snow and watched–occasional wispy clouds passed over the moon’s face, darkening the color. Wonderful how 3-dimensional the moon becomes with some extra shadow.

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  21. Wonderful photos, thank you for posting them. Missed this in London due to cloud. We had two weeks of clear night skies and then the clouds arrived. Thanks to your photos I can say I have seen the eclipse.

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  22. Rurality – I liked your photos, though.

    marlyat2 – Good point about three-dimensionality. Also, an eclipsed moon is much easier to photograph.

    ainelivia – That’s usually the way it is here for us in central PA. I was shocked that we got such good views this time.

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  23. wonderful photos, we missed this one due to heavy clouds plus 3am not the best time really! I did catch it a few years ago, amazing to just sit and watch as the moon turned red.

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