A New Year and a new total lunar eclipse!

January 07, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

Hey - it's 2019.  Welcome to a New Year of exciting astronomical and weather-related events!  What better way to start the New Year then with a spectacular total lunar eclipse.  Those of us in North and South America will get to observe this cosmic event in its entirety.  Thank you very much.  Whether or not the "weather gods" will line us up for "clear skies" is another matter.

I, for one, am prepared to do some travelling, if need be, to observe and image this eclipse especially since we would have to wait until 2021 for the next one.  Of course, the middle of January is not really the ideal time to have such a celestial event since skies have a 50/50 chance of being clear and even if they are, the temps are usually frigid.  We might get lucky yet.  I have never observed a total solar eclipse (on my bucket list) and so can't compare it to a total lunar one but I must say that I really enjoy TLE's.  To be able to see "totality" for such a long period and to witness all the colors of all the sunsets and sunrises on earth at once during "totality" is fascinating and a total "geek out" experience.

Just some tips:  Stay warm.  Dress in layers and have some hot drinks like hot chocolate, coffee or cider on hand.  Be sure to wear a hat.  If the temperatures are way too cold, at least make an effort to go out and observe the "totality" phase.  If imaging and temps are cold, you may want to think about fast setup and take down rig such as a 35mm DSLR, tripod and super-telephoto lens.  Don't forget to use a remote shutter release.  If you can bear the temps or if the temps are warmer, think about a rig consisting of an astronomical telescope to image at prime focus along with your 35mm DSLR and camera adapter.  Again, don't forget the remote shutter release.

Remember that shorter exposures will be needed during the partial phases and longer exposures of the "totality" phases.  Bracket your images and be sure to obtain "critical focus", especially if your rig is NOT tracking.  Use a lower ISO for better resolution and less "noise".  Partial phases will most likely be in fractions of a second and "totality" captured with one second or more exposure times.  Use your camera's "live view" mode and magnifying options to zoom in and obtain "exact focus" that is tack sharp before you press the shutter.  Preview your images to confirm critical focus and then bracket.

If you don't have a super telephoto lens, try obtaining a "grab-and-go" telescope.  These are lightweight, easy to set up and take down, carry, and tend to have wide-field and fast optics.  Use a barlow lens to increase the magnification if you want the moon to be bigger in your telescope's field of view.  Just remember that the more you magnify the more you magnify the atmosphere's turbulence and the more critical you must be with "focus" and the stability of your mount and tripod.  Ok, let's hope for clear skies and enjoy the New Year eclipse!

Here is a link to the January 20/21 TLE:

January 20/21 TLE information link

 


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