Capturing the lunar eclipse

Walkingworld contributor Pete Salenieks reports on the last month’s lunar eclipse:

After the prolonged dry spell and a clear sky following my walking club’s outing on Thursday evening, it was ironic that the change of weather on Friday coincided with the longest lunar eclipse this century. However, I was optimistic that there would be gaps in the clouds and that hope proved well-founded.

Moonrise almost coincided with sunset and there was still some colour in the evening sky as I looked West from the Cotswolds towards Bristol and the Severn Vale. Unfortunately, the clouds were down towards the South-East, obstructing any view of the blood moon whilst it lay entirely within the earth’s shadow. There was a reddish glow low in the South-Eastern sky. At first, I thought that it was caused by urban lights reflected off the clouds. However, it wasn’t visible earlier in the evening and faded at around the time that the total eclipse was due to end, so I wondered if that was as close as I would come to seeing the colour of the blood moon this time. A tractor came out to work one of the nearby fields, its lights bright in the middle distance.

The clouds started to thin and break, yielding clearer views of the partial eclipse as the earth’s shadow tracked across the face of the moon. The blood moon wasn’t the only reddish object in the sky. One highlight was a view of the planet Mars, bright as it reached opposition on the night of the lunar eclipse, between the rising moon and the horizon (see: https://freestarcharts.com/mars-reaches-opposition-on-july-27-2018). An aeroplane flew between the two, its navigation lights caught in the long exposure that I used to take my photograph.

One final spectacle was a bright satellite passing high in the sky as it transited from West to East whilst I was finishing up. Upwind, the clouds started to gather once again and I knew that it was time to go back indoors.

According to NASA, the next total lunar eclipse is on 21st January 2019 and will be a much shorter affair (see: https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/lunar.html). Fingers crossed that it will be a clear night!

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