Lunar eclipse magic!

We love our science here. We are proud science nerds! So it was very exciting to hear that there would be a lunar eclipse (albeit a late one - starting at 11:45pm, with the greatest eclipse occurring at 1:58am!).

It was going to be a total lunar eclipse, with the moon completely shaded by the Earth's shadow or umbra:


If only the weather would cooperate! It was a very cloudy day and I didn't hold out much hope and was looking forward to an early night after my busy day of shifting two cubic metres of sand (doesn't sound like a lot until you have to move wheelbarrow-full loads of the stuff) and rescuing hubby who had run out of fuel on the busiest street in our town (and who was lucky his wife knew that you have to pump the fuel line to remove the air in diesel engines). Miraculously, as the day progressed, the clouds cleared to a beautiful evening.

The last big lunar eclipse, we had a terrestrial telescope (which means the image is the right way around)

Refractor Light Path

and my trusty Olympus point and press camera shoved up against the eyepiece to take some photos (I wonder where they are? I can't find them).

This year, despite my previous rant about acquiring new stuff, I did indeed have lovely new stuff with which to enjoy the lunar eclipse!!! We own a retail electronics shop, and occasionally if things don't sell, we write them off and bring them home. Both of my new toys were acquired in this manner!

Having spent over a year collecting dust in our shed (can you believe it), I unpacked our brand new Bushnell reflection telescope!

It is a classic Newtonian reflector telescope, with a lovely big field of view and an electronic thingy that tells you where everything is.

Reflector Light Path

You can change the magnification by changing the eyepiece lens and (apparently) you can attach an SLR camera to it to take photos. The image is upside down and back to front.

Video Boy (being a lover of all things science) was very interested in helping me set it up (which is unusual for him - you usually have to drop several obvious hints or put a bomb under him to help out with anything).

We were able to get it set up (and read the instructions!) before it got too dark. It was a lovely still night, not too cold and a beautiful night for stargazing!

Christmas lights were an added light source...
It was good when the moon cleared the power lines!

View with the naked eye (or point and press)

The other new piece of stuff was my Canon EOS 500D with twin lens kit. This was another shop present that sat, virtually unused, until I started playing with it earlier in the year. Takes beautiful photos! I was getting a bit cross with it though, as the 18-55mm lens was not auto-focussing. I googled the problem (as you do) and after a bit of testing, I think it is the lens that is the issue, not the camera. Grrr. But I still had the macro lens and after googling tips on shooting lunar eclipses with a DSLR (as you do), I was all set up.

So I used the 55-250mm macro lens on 250mm. Set it up on a tripod. Set the metering to "spot metering". Changed the image quality to the largest size. Used the 2-sec self-timer (so I didn't touch the camera when taking the shot) and yelled at anyone who stomped on the deck and wobbled it!

The view of the moon through the telescope was stunning and learning how to attach the camera is on my list of things to do. I wasn't sure how the pics from the camera were going to turn out. It looked disappointingly small in the viewfinder and on the LCD screen.

Video Boy had no staying power and was sound asleep. I attempted to wake him but was greeted with that confusion you experience when someone disturbs your deepest sleep. I hope the photos would be enough for my young astronomer. Wombat Girl was a dirty stop-out who kept me company. We sat, rugged up in our jackets and chatted quietly while the wonders of the universe unfolded before us. Hubby popped up out of bed a couple of times.

My words aren't as eloquent as the beautiful Helena's (you really have to go read her words if you haven't), but we know what she is on about. 

Original shot

Cropped - just as the eclipse started


As the light-levels got less and less (and the deck, previously light up as if there were a spotlight, got darker and darker), the exposure times on the camera got longer and longer. Even with the tripod and self-timer there was just too much movement to capture a perfect red moon. But I'm really happy with how the shots turned out!

I thought I would be tired, but I went inside, downloaded the shots to the computer and cropped. Wow. This is after playing a bit with Photoshop (I don't really know what I'm doing - some more learning required).

For me (and to a certain extent, the kids), last night was partially about leaning about lunar eclipses, telescopes and cameras. But it was ultimately about feeling small, having a sense of wonder at this amazing universe of ours - even just our tiny bit of it.


  1. What beautiful pictures! We were bummed that the eclipse happened after the moon set here. At least we can experience it vicariously through your post.

  2. GORGEOUS photos, Ingi! And I loved hearing about your process, getting all the equipment, and all the learning you did to get to here. I'm SO impressed and inspired!

    Thanks for mentioning my words, too :) When I wrote that post, I actually checked your blog to see if you'd written about your experience yet and posted your beautiful photos, so that I could link to you!

    This is so lovely. There is eloquence in abundance here, Ingi. Thank you.

  3. Thank you lovely ladies!! I am sooo impressed that those photos turned out! I wasn't going to bother with the camera, but a friend of mine had posted some test shots on Facebook (as you do), so I dragged out the macro lens and tripod - very glad I bothered!

    I think my eloquence just gets expressed a little differently Helena - but it's all good :-)

  4. My girls are hanging over my shoulder oohing and awing over your awesome shots.

    Thanks so much for sharing this with us!

  5. What great photos. We had too much cloud cover where we were at the time, Plus I could have been fast asleep by then. Thanks so much for sharing.

  6. Completely brilliant. We have a few dates and promises to fulfil (champagne, wine and vinyl), but I'd love to see the telescope next time I'm down.

    I know this is stupid, but I really got the sense of scale and emptiness when I caught myself thinking of the moon as another earth to walk on, and those craters are countries, regions and something to experience. Then of course it's hardly a tourist destination, is it Virgin?


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