Monday, April 14, 2014

No, 263 Total Lunar Eclipse 2014

(Diagram by Fred Espenak via, licensed via Creative Commons)

It has been 4 years since the Pacific Northwest has had the chance for a total lunar eclipse and this evening we just might be able to see it happening barring any clouds or rain that is.
Starting around 10:30pm Monday night April 14th, 2014 the moon will move across Earth's shadow from right to left as it moves across the western sky. Just after midnight the moon will complete pass behind Earth and remain in the shadow until around 1:30am Tuesday morning. 

Astronomy Event Details:

Date: Monday April 14th, 2014 to early morning Tuesday April 15, 2014 
Time: 10:30pm to 2:30am
Total Eclipse: 12am to 1:30am

What is a lunar eclipse?
A lunar eclipse is when the full Moon passes directly through the Earth’s shadow. Although the full Moon happens every month, lunar eclipses usually only occur twice a year. They can occur more or less often, and are not always visible from the same part of the world.
First you’ll see the edge of the Earth’s rounded shadow, crossing across the face of the Moon. When the Moon passes fully into the Earth’s shadow, some of the Sun’s light is refracted around the Earth by the atmosphere, causing the Moon to look reddish. In fact, it’s the same effect as what makes sunsets look pink, red, and orange. The Moon will be basking in a ring of sunset light for a little more than an hour.
How and where should you watch?
You’ll want somewhere with a nice view of the southern sky, but the Moon will get high enough in the sky to see over many obstacles, so I recommend your backyard, or the sidewalk of a side street that runs North-South.

How to Photograph the Moon 

Camera :  I recommend a DSLR camera body for shooting images of the moon and night sky because it has a larger sensor and manual controls over smaller Point and Shoot Cameras. 
Camera Settings 
- Image Quality set to RAW
- Manual Shooting Mode
- Aperture between f11 and f16 for sharpness
- Shutter speed of 1/300 to 1/60 depending on ambient light
- Manual focus to Infinity 

test shots April 13th, 2014
Settings : 1/125 ISO 100 f/18 300mm

A sturdy tripod with a ball head that can handle your camera + lens combo is essential to capturing sharp images of the moon. Attempting to hand hold your camera will not result in many crisp and sharp images. 

Cable Release
After you spent a good 5 minutes centering the moon in the middle of the viewfinder and dialing in all the settings the last thing you want is to cause your camera and lens to shake as you press down on the shutter button. When shooting with zoom lenses the littles movements on the camera get magnified. If you have used a tripod in the past but had soft or blurry images chances are you introduced camera shake by pushing down on the shutter button. 

Mirror Lock Up
If your camera has this shooting option then use it. When having Mirror Lockup enabled you are taking two steps to make an exposure. The first press on the cable release swings the mirror up, after a few seconds the second press on the cable release then takes the exposure after the vibrations of the mirror moving have subsided. Using this shooting option will increase your chances for a sharp image. 

Infinity Focus
Cameras with Auto Focus may have a hard time focusing on the bright white lunar surface. Select manual focus and using the focus ring on the lens rotate to infinity. 

Aperture Range
Every lens has its own range of sharpness. I would start taking test shots around 10:30pm with f8 and then take test shots with increasing aperture numbers f10, f11~f20 etc. Remember though that as you stop down your lens you may need to use a slower shutter speed to make up for the loss of light hrough the lens. 

Head Lamp
Using a  head lamp will make changing settings on your camera easier and safer than trying to hold the camera along with a flash light. 

Here is my setup that I used last night to take some sample shots for practice for tonight event 

Tripod + Ball Head
DSLR camera with cable release attached
300mm lens + 2x teleconverter (600mm equiv.)


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