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.

Lunar Eclipse of 18–19 November 2021

The Lunar eclipse of 18–19 November was considered a “partial eclipse” but with 97% coverage it was pretty close to a total eclipse. But not quite. That last 3% of the illuminated limb of the Moon was enough to make photography a challenge because its brightness significantly overwhelmed the dim red of the remainder of the lunar disk as well as the nearby stars.

Lunar eclipse with the Pleiades and Hyades star clusters.
Lunar eclipse with the Pleiades and Hyades star clusters.
Lunar eclipse.
Lunar eclipse.

What made this eclipse noteworthy is the proximity of the Moon to both the Pleiades (M45) and Hyades star clusters.

I used an Nikon 80–200mm telephoto zoom lens for this astrophotography session. Set to 200mm it was possible to capture (barely) both the Moon and Pleiades. Set to 80mm it was easy to capture all three objects. This legacy lens from Nikon is still a very useful astrophotography lens for me—not least because it has a hard stop at infinity making nighttime focusing simple.

Complicating the setup—and there’s always a complication—was the presence of high, thin clouds streaming across the sky. These clouds muted the brilliance of the stars but also created an illuminated area surrounding the Moon. To capture both the bright uneclipsed sliver of the Moon as well as the nebulosity in the Pleiades required shooting a variety of exposures that could be blended later. Even this was not as easy as I had hoped and I tried different methods (e.g., layers with masks; high dynamic range blending; dodging and burning, etc.) until I was finally satisfied with a good but less than stellar (get it? stellar?) image.

Here are two images. The zoomed in and highly cropped image was shot at ISO 800, ƒ/8, and 4 seconds at a focal length of 200mm. The wider field of view was shot at 80mm, ISO 800, ƒ/8, and at shutter speeds of ½, 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, and 30 seconds. HDR blending was done using Lightroom 6 and then further tweaked using various tools to brighten the stars while keeping the Moon dark.

Moon-Venus Conjunction

A few days ago, the thin crescent Moon passed close to the planet Venus in the evening twilight sky. Conjunctions such as this repeat at roughly one-month intervals so this is not a rare occurrence—just a beautiful one.

Conjunction of Venus and the Moon.
Conjunction of Venus and the Moon.

The crescent Moon is ~2.4% illuminated by the direct light of the Sun; the remainder of the Moon is lit by Earthshine which is bright enough to show detail on the shadowed face of the Moon. Leonardo da Vinci explained the phenomenon in the early 16th century when he realized that both Earth and the Moon reflect sunlight at the same time. Light is reflected from Earth to the Moon and back to Earth as earthshine.