Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse

Above is the sequence of the best pictures I took last night when I stayed up late to capture the first lunar eclipse on a winter solstice in almost 400 years.

I had hopes of taking pictures from inside the sunroom through the skylights but I realized they were dirty and I would have to clean them. Unfortunately I out it off until nighttime and so I was out on the roof with the windex freezing on the skylights trying to get them clean. I finally needed to get a hair dryer to remelt the cleaner with a towel to wipe it off. I shouldn't have bothered. Below is an example of the moon through the skylights with bright wings on either side.

Thus I ended up going outside to get the best pictures. It was cold so I had a fire going in the fireplace to warm up after each trip. I have been wrestling mightily with how to get the correct exposure on my crappy 8 MP Kodak camera, which is not a DSLR. I don't feel I deserve a real camera until I learn to take care of this one, and true to form I almost dropped it last night as well.

It seems like it is impossible to take a good picture of the full moon with this camera, I need to find a way to reduce the exposure way down, even as the camera thinks I need a high one because most of the field of vision is dark. I also struggled with having the camera focus on infinity, I finally had some luck with the distant setting, a little mountain icon on the camera. To be honest, once the eclipse was at its darkest I had a good amount of luck by just setting the exposure to a really long time to capture the dark red of the fully eclipsed moon. below is a closeup of an 8 second exposure, distant focus, lens zoomed and then I digitally zoomed and cropped it for this photo. It is the best shot.

I realized that for these long exposures that I was actually getting a good image of the stars around the eclipsed moon as well. So I tried to capture some constellations and the moon. Below are two shots with the moon at upper right, Orion at lower left and light pollution from Wilmington to the southwest at the bottom near the horizon.

I even got the Big dipper in this shot. Click for larger to see.

With my new success with the 8 second exposure to see stars I may try this again at the next new moon.

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