Total Eclipse of the Moon

Last night (December 20, 2010 in Colorado), there was a total eclipse of the moon.  I was watching the weather with trepidation - it had been mostly cloudy all day - and as night fell, I was pretty pessimistic about the chances for seeing anything.  But I dutifully put the telescope outside to cool, and got the camera equipment ready, just in case things cleared up:

Wonder of wonders, the sky cleared up during the eclipse.   There were clouds coming and going all evening, but nothing that diminished the enjoyment of the event.   Here is a shot of the fully eclipsed moon north of Orion, with Taurus and the Pleiades in the shot (and some tree branches in the foreground).  A cloud, illuminated by Fort Collins city lights, drifts in front of Orion.  This was taken with at 18mm focal length on a Canon EOS 40D (1.6x crop factor):

Switching lenses, here is a shot at 100mm focal length on the same camera:

But the real exciting shots were taken through the telescope  a Meade LX90-ACF 8", with 2000mm focal length at f/10 - with my Canon 5D Mk II.  Here is a shot at totality showing how nicely the moon fills the field on this setup:

I diligently took pictures through the telescope every 15 minutes or so, and assembled the results into a collage.  Some of the technical details include:
  • Since the Meade is on an alt-azimuth mount, pictures suffer from field rotation.  So, at the end of the 3 or so hours, the moon had rotated by just over 90 degrees in the camera.
  • This means each image had to be rotated by a small amount more than the previous one to be oriented in the proper direction.  I used the EXIF data from the camera to find the exact time of each shot, so I could calculate the rotation.
  • The collage was assembled in Adobe Illustrator, which allowed good control of orientation and position
  • Each shot is taken with a somewhat different ISO rating (between 100 and 6400) and shutter speed (between 1/50 second and 2 or so seconds) but I kept brightness adjustments to a minimum in the collage
  • The moon was obscured by haze during the partial phases - both entering and exiting - but the telescope cuts through that pretty nicely.  The sky was pretty clear during totality
Without further ado - the full products of my labor:

And now, time for some more coffee...


Brian said…
Very nice. Clouds cut us off just before totality here in San Antonio TX so I'm delighted to see the whole event.

Any chance of a "Wall Paper" sized image for my desktop?


Ross Cunniff said…
Thanks! You can download a higher-res version at

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