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Thursday, September 7, 2006

Astronomy: Partial Lunar Eclipse

Partial Lunar Eclipse of 2006-09-07

The partial lunar eclipse of 2006-09-07 is a far from spectacular celestial event, since at maximum the Earth's umbra covers less than 20% of the Moon's diameter. Further, for observers in central Europe, the eclipse was already underway at moonrise. In fact, by the time the Moon cleared the trees to the southeast of Fourmilab, the eclipse was near its maximum. And, on top of all of that, the sky was filled with haze and scattered light clouds, illuminated by flashes from distant lightning.

Still, it was an eclipse, and I had this spanking new Nikon D200 10 megapixel SLR camera body I'd only received yesterday and was itching to try out, so I mounted a 28–200 mm zoom lens and took a few shots shortly after the moment of maximum eclipse at 18:51 UTC (20:51 local summer time). This is the best of the lot; all of the others were even more obscured by the haze and clouds than this one. This is a full-scale crop from the original 3872×2592 image: don't those ten megapixels come in handy, or what? For an artsy touch, I framed the Moon with a pine tree in the foreground. Exposure was 1/40 second at f/5.6 with the sensor set to ISO 100 equivalent sensitivity. The camera was mounted on a tripod; I have no illusions of being able to hand-hold an exposure of this length with a lens zoomed to a 24×36 mm equivalent of 300 mm focal length! The fuzziness and gunk around the Moon is due to the murky atmosphere: that's precisely how it looked through the viewfinder. I'm looking forward to putting the D200 through its paces with more interesting events and better atmospheric conditions, but I'm pleased this first experiment went as well as it did.

Posted at September 7, 2006 22:50