The gods must've been feeling really kindly towards me last night. Instead of the expected solid overcast mixed with rain, there were alternating spells of rain showers, clouds, crystal-clear sky, and fog. Consequently, to my surprise and delight, the eclipse was visible from my house at several times during the evening, although the majority of the time the moon was not visible or was heavily veiled by clouds or fog.
When it was clear, it was gorgeous, with the moon hanging above Orion. The view was even better through our 10-inch Dobsonian telescope; with the 38mm eyepiece we had a field of view several degrees wide, and the full moon simply looked spectacular. Again, to my surprise and delight, totality was even more beautiful than I expected; the moon was so dark that the background of stars was clearly visible in the eyepiece. Normally one doesn't notice any stars near the moon because it is so bright. In this case, it looked like a movie matte painting, with the glittery background.
I decided to attempt some direct projection photography. That's when one uses the telescope as a large reflecting lens, with no eyepiece or camera lens involved, just projecting the reflected image onto the sensor of the camera. In effect, the telescope simply becomes a 1200 mm ƒ/4.7 lens. And, compared to many camera lenses, it's a pretty inexpensive hunk o' glass; a scope like ours costs only $500.
I simply pressed the Olympus Pen body up against the end of the tube that would normally hold the eyepiece, focused the tube in and out until the image on the LCD looked sharp, and clicked away. Autoexposure mode worked fine.
Still more surprise and delight: the photographs came out much, much better than I expected, especially seeing as I had never tried this before. Even some of the ones at full totality, with awkwardly long exposures, were decent. A wonderful bonus on top of seeing a great eclipse.
Fun, fun, fun!
Totality is still almost an hour off, and the umbra has bitten only a small piece off of the moon. It's not actually black, although it appears almost so in this photograph. ISO 100, 1/320th sec. (as usual you can click on these images to open larger versions).
A full hour into totality, with only 10 min. left, but the skies didn't clear before this point. Note the few stars visible in the background; many, many more were visible to the eye. ISO 800, 0.8 sec (As I wrote yesterday, totalities are dark.)
Ten minutes later, and totality is well over. With a long exposure like this the color in the shadow still comes through, but the sunlit portion of the moon is blown out. This is one of those cases where the human eye's adaptability puts photographic systems to shame. The brightness range in the scene is just barely within what the camera could record, so it's probably up around nine stops. But, to my eye the sunlit portion doesn't look very much brighter than the shadowed portion; it is still a delicate-looking scene. ISO 400, 1/4 sec.
Note: Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site. More...
Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.