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Tips and Techniques [1404.16]

How to Watch a Lunar Eclipse

I enjoyed watching Monday night's total lunar eclipse. For future reference, I thought I'd make a few notes on what to do so it'll be easier when the next one occurs.

First, go to the NASA eclipse site and look up details for the eclipse. Times will be given in UT (universal time), and will need to be converted to local time. For example, here is the timeline for the 1410.08 total lunar eclipse (adding conversion to Pacific time):

    P1 Penumbral Eclipse Begins    08:15:33 UT   01:15:33 PDT
    U1 Partial Eclipse Begins      09:14:48 UT   02:14:48 PDT
    U2 Total Eclipse Begins        10:25:10 UT   03:25:10 PDT
       Greatest Eclipse            10:54:36 UT   03:54:36 PDT
    U3 Total Eclipse Ends          11:24:00 UT   04:24:00 PDT
    U4 Partial Eclipse Ends        12:34:21 UT   05:34:21 PDT
    P4 Penumbral Eclipse Ends      13:33:43 UT   06:33:43 PDT
See's guide to the 1404.14 lunar eclipse for some pretty thorough descriptions of the various stages and what to watch for in each one. However, there's no need to pore over it during the eclipse if you understand the basics yourself. If you won't be spending the whole time outside during the eclipse, at least be sure to come out to take a look at the moon during the several minutes before and after each of the time points listed above, especially U2 and U3.

Some final suggestions:

On Monday, I witnessed the "Japanese lantern effect" at U3. It was breathtaking to see the moon's dark orange disk developing a white hot glow at its edge as totality ended (binoculars definitely enhanced the effect). It's one of those experiences that cannot really be captured in a photograph.

I'm looking forward to seeing it again at the next lunar eclipse!

Update 1404.20: Dave has posted some astrophotos. His full eclipse video summaries nicely how the eclipse goes from black and white in the umbral stages to "blood red" during totality.

Update 1406.12: Added article to newly created eclipse series

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