A total lunar eclipse graced Oakland’s skies before dawn this morning (October 8, 2014). As you can see from the first photo, the full moon looked like a copper penny in the sky. The earth’s shadow blocked all direct sunlight on the moon’s surface, only allowing sunlight refracted by our atmosphere to reach our neighbor’s surface. The moon was significantly dimmed during totality, but you could still make out major surface markings.
The image above was taken during total eclipse, with a 300mm lens mounted on a tripod. The three faint dots in a row on the right side of the photo are stars in the constellation Pisces, the fish. The faint ‘star’ about one lunar diameter to the lower left of the moon (about 8 o’clock from the moon’s center) is actually the planet Uranus. It’s hard to believe that a planet 30,518 miles in diameter (the earth is 7,918 miles wide) can look like a speck of dust, but it’s 1.8 billion miles away! You may need to enlarge the photo by clicking on it in order to see these faint images.
For comparison purposes, the second photo was taken during the previous total lunar eclipse visible from Oakland (April 15, 2014), using the same camera and lens that shot the first photo. To me, this morning’s total eclipse seems a bit brighter. This is, in part, due to this morning’s superior viewing conditions (the April eclipse was viewed with some cloud in the area which may have darkened the moon, somewhat).
You may also notice that this morning’s moon was slightly larger than the one in April. Can you discern the slight difference in the moon’s size in the two photographs? This is because this morning’s eclipse occurred close to the moon’s perigee — that portion of the moon’s orbit that brings it closest to earth (in fact, today’s full moon was almost considered a ‘super-moon’). As a result of the moon’s closer distance, this morning’s moon was about 5% larger than April’s eclipsed moon.
To give a sense of scale, I shot the third photo through one of our rosebushes, using a flash. This is approximately what this morning’s eclipsed moon looked like when viewed with the naked eye.
The last photo was taken about 4:30am today, shortly after totality ended. In this image, the moon is in partial eclipse, with the upper edge of the moon back in sunlight. To me, this image looks like the planet Mars, with the sunlit portion resembling Mars’ polar ice cap.
Needless to say, those who observed today’s early morning eclipse were not disappointed. And for those who may have missed the spectacle, I hope these pictures give you a taste of the beautiful display that was visible in Oakland’s sky before dawn.
Keeping Oakland Beautiful is everybody’s business.
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