Lunar Eclipse and Cathedral Rock

A partially-eclipsed Moon rises behind Cathedral Rock.
A partially-eclipsed Moon rises behind Cathedral Rock.

I have been looking forward to this most recent Lunar eclipse for several months. I have worked up several scenarios to photograph the event, considered renting a larger lens, and more.

And, then, a few days before the event it became evident that it would probably be cloudy. All forecast models indicated increasing clouds moving in from the west. It was pretty obvious that I was not going to be able to capture the event from beginning to end.

That still left one possibility. There would be fewer clouds low in the east early in the eclipse so I might get a few shots of the beginning of the eclipse. So at the insistence of a friend, I joined him at Crescent Moon Picnic area near Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona.

The plan was to get a few twilight photos of Cathedral Rock before it got too dark. And then get a photo or two of the Moon as it rose between the spires of Cathedral Rock. The Photographers Ephemeris was used to determine the best spot to see the Moon in the gap.

And then we waited.

Right on time the Moon rose in the gap with the Moon visible from 2002 to about 2012 MST.

The photograph at the top is a blended image of Cathedral Rock at 1938 MST and the partially-eclipsed Moon at 2010 MST. Below are the two images before they were combined.

Individual images used to create the blended image.
Individual images used to create the blended image.

The next two total Lunar eclipses will occur 7–8 November 2022 and 13–14 March 2025.

Moon, Mercury, and Pleiades in the Evening Sky

A few days ago the Moon, Mercury, and the Pleiades were all located close to each other in the evening sky. Although it had been completely cloud free all day, some high clouds moved in right after sunset. I think they add a bit of interest to the otherwise clear sky.

Moon, Mercury, and Pleiades at 2002 MST 02 May 2022.
Moon, Mercury, and Pleiades at 2002 MST 02 May 2022.
Screen shot from Stellarium showing the evening sky plus the field of view from a 70mm lens.
Screen shot from Stellarium showing the evening sky plus the field of view from a 70mm lens.

The image is a composite of a 2-second image of the sky and an 8-second image of the water. It was a breezy evening and the water was roughed up a bit by the wind but the longer exposure helped to smooth out the surface and provide a bit of a reflection of the Moon.

The second image is a screen shot from the Stellarium application showing the positions of these three objects in the evening sky. In addition, Stellarium can project a box showing the field of view of lenses with various focal lengths. In this case, this is the FOV for a 70mm lens. I often use this feature to determine which lens or focal length will give the best framing.

Four Planets and the Crescent Moon in the Morning Sky

There are currently four planets easily visible in the morning sky: Jupiter, Venus, Mars, and Saturn. Prevously they had been fairly evenly spaced and in a line sloping upward from the east to southeast. Now, however, Venus is quickly moving lower in the sky towards Jupiter and they will pass by each other in a few days. In the meantime, the crescent Moon joined the planetary quartet this week.

Four planets and the Moon (0453 MST 28 April 2022).
Four planets and the Moon (0453 MST 28 April 2022).
Four planets and the Moon with annotations (0453 MST 28 April 2022).
Four planets and the Moon with annotations (0453 MST 28 April 2022).
Screen shot from Stellarium showing the four planets and the FOV from a 24mm lens.
Screen shot from Stellarium showing the four planets and the FOV from a 24mm lens.

Here is an image from 0453 MST 28 April 2022. The Moon was partially obscured by smoke low on the horizon from western wildfires. Also shown is a screen shot from Stellarium showing the four planets and Moon with an overlay of the field of view from a 24mm lens.

Four Planets in the Morning Sky

There are currently four planets easily visible in the morning sky: Jupiter, Venus, Mars, and Saturn. For a few days they have been fairly evenly spaced and in a line sloping upward from the east to southeast. Next week the slim crescent Moon will join them but the spacing will be a bit different.

Four planets in the eastern sky before dawn.
Four planets in the eastern sky before dawn.

Here is a shot from about 0502 MST 21 April 2022. Twilight was already brightening the horizon so perhaps I should have been there a half hour earlier. Also shown is a screen shot from Stellarium showing the four planets with an overlay of the field of view from a 24mm lens.

Screen shot from Stellarium showing the four planets and the FOV from a 24mm lens.
Screen shot from Stellarium showing the four planets and the FOV from a 24mm lens.

This was taken from the “City Overlook at Lowell Observatory” which is really just a small, designated pulloff of the road to the observatory. It’s nice to know that the City recognizes the value of this location and is working to preserve it.

City Overlook at Lowell Observatory.
City Overlook at Lowell Observatory.

 

Photographing the Milky Way and Cathedral Rock

We are entering Milky Way season—generally considered to be March through September in the northern hemisphere. In mid-March the Milky Way does not rise until well after midnight and the Galactic Center of the Milky Way is only about 25° degrees above the horizon by astronomical twilight.

The Milky Way and Galactic Center rise above Cathedral Rock. Venus and Mars are also visible just above the horizon and to the left of Cathedral Rock.
The Milky Way and Galactic Center rise above Cathedral Rock. Venus and Mars are also visible just above the horizon and to the left of Cathedral Rock.

Accompanying the Milky Way was the waxing crescent Moon which was 77% illuminated on the morning of 13 March 2022. The Moon would set around 0413 MST and twilight did not start until 0516 MST.

The Milky Way is lower in the sky and is combined with a foreground image containing star reflections in the small pool of water.
The Milky Way is lower in the sky and is combined with a foreground image containing star reflections in the small pool of water.

What this means is that I could photograph the landscape with the Moon illuminating it and then an hour or so later capture the Milky Way after the Moon had set and the sky was very dark.

I arrived with bright moonlight illuminating Cathedral Rock. I positioned the camera so that I could get some star reflections in the small—very small—pool of water. I also shot images without the water—just expanses of undulating red rock with alternating patterns of light and shadow.

Having finished that part of the show I had to wait until the Moon was at least a few degrees below the horizon allowing the sky to become very dark.

The Galactic Center of the Milky was about 16° above the horizon at moonset—which was just barely above the high point of Cathedral Rock. That wasn’t really the shot I wanted so I waited until it got higher.

Just before and after astronomical twilight the Galactic Center had risen to about 25° above the horizon. I shot a few images before twilight began to wash out the stars in the eastern sky. As a bonus, I was also able to capture the planets Venus and Mars just above the horizon.

The foreground images were shot at ISO 800, ƒ/5.6 and ƒ/8, and 120 seconds exposure with LENR (long exposure noise reduction) turned on. The star images were shot at ISO 800, ƒ/5.6, and 300 seconds exposure with LENR. Star images were taken with the camera mounted on an iOptron SkyTracker mount.