Observed By: Melvin E. Dawson of the SAO - Riverview, FL and Gary Barabino of the VAO - Slidell, LA

Click for an enlarged view of the photo

The Total Lunar Eclipse of December 21, 2010 reached totality at approximately 3:16am EST. This image was taken through my 127mm f/9.4 "BGRP" Refractor with my Olympus E-500 DSLR at prime focus. A joint observing session of this event was conducted with Gary Barabino of the VSC-1 in Slidell, LA via phone. Click the above image for an enlarged view!

Photos taken by Mel Dawson – SAO - Vega Sky Center – Riverview, FL





  • 127mm f/9.4 "BGRP" Refractor with “SurpluShed” Objective - Used to view and image the eclipse.

  • CG-5 Equatorial Mount atop Homebuilt North Star II Field Tripod - Used to track the eclipse.

  • Olympus E-500 8 Mega Pixel DSLR - Set to ISO 200 using varying exposure times to image the eclipse.

  • JMI 2" T-Mount and Cirrus T-Ring - Used as a means of connecting the DSLR to the telescope's focuser.

  • 2" - 50mm Extension Tube - Used to provide ample back-focus to eliminate the use of a Star Diagonal.

  • Olympus SP-500uz 6 Mega Pixel Digital Camera - Used to photograph the observing site.

  • Phone to call Gary at the VSC-1 in Slidell, LA - Used for communications between sites to share in the event.


Click to view an enlarged view!

Imaging the December 21, 2010 Total Lunar Eclipse at a feverish pace, Mel Dawson is pictured here speaking with Gary Barabino of the VSC-1 in Slidell, LA over the phone as they observed the event jointly. Click above image to enlarge!

Click to view an enlarged view!

Here is a shot of the 127mm f/9.4 refractor nearly pushed into my garage to use the roof extension for cover to prevent the objective from fogging up while I image the last moments of the eclipse. Click above image to enlarge!

Click to view an enlarged view!

By moving the 127mm f/9.4 "BGRP" refractor under the roof line in front of the garage, it allow me to image a great deal longer. Unfortunately, clouds begin to move in along with the palm tree in my front yard getting in the way of the last few images, which shutdown to event for me at around 05:15am. Check out the last vestiges of the eclipse moon in the foreground. as the end of the event approached. Click above image to enlarge!

 The below collection of images of the December 21st, 2010 Total Lunar Eclipse were capture via Prime Focus by Mel Dawson of the Vega Sky Center 1 in Riverview, FL were captured using his homebuilt SurpluShed 127mm f/9.4 "BGRP" refractor with a Olympus E-500 DSLR. Please read the synopsis below to engage on the experience as witnessed by Mel Dawson. Click each photo below to reveal an enlarged image.


12/21/2010  01:30 EST

12/21/2010  01:38 EST

12/21/2010  01:41 EST

12/21/2010  01:44 EST

12/21/2010  01:49 EST


12/21/2010  01:53 EST

12/21/2010  01:58 EST

12/21/2010  02:09 EST

12/21/2010  02:18 EST

12/21/2010  02:21 EST


12/21/2010  02:23 EST

12/21/2010  02:27 EST

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12/21/2010  02:33 EST

12/21/2010  02:35 EST

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12/21/2010  02:40 EST

12/21/2010  02:44 EST


12/21/2010  02:46 EST

12/21/2010  02:53 EST

12/21/2010  03:04 EST

12/21/2010  03:07 EST

12/21/2010  03:16 EST


12/21/2010  03:31 EST

12/21/2010  03:38 EST

12/21/2010  03:45 EST

12/21/2010  03:47 EST

12/21/2010  03:58 EST


12/21/2010  03:59 EST

12/21/2010  04:03 EST

12/21/2010  04:06 EST

12/21/2010  04:07 EST

12/21/2010  04:13 EST


12/21/2010  04:18 EST

12/21/2010  04:24 EST

12/21/2010  04:30 EST

12/21/2010  04:36 EST

12/21/2010  04:44 EST


12/21/2010  04:49 EST

12/21/2010  04:58 EST

12/21/2010  05:02 EST

12/21/2010  05:04 EST

12/21/2010  05:12 EST


A Synopsis of the Event by the VSC-2

With fond memories in tow after having a glorious time out at the Fall Star Party in Chiefland, FL with friends from the FarrOut Observation, I was primed and anxiously ready to observe the last total lunar eclipse of the decade. Especially since it was going to be happening on Winter Solstice of this year, which is indeed a once in a lifetime experience to witness. And with that in mind, I wanted to do my best to photograph the eclipse better than any of the other times I have done so in the past. I believe I have accomplished that task. Out of the many images I took during this momentous event, I reserved forty-five (45) for closer scrutiny within the collection above, and fifty-six out for the collage (see below).

The weather conditions were chili for residence here in Florida at a crisp 38-defrees Fahrenheit and the humidity was high. It was far from being a comfortable night. With respect to the inclement weather, my main concern was focused on keeping my optics dew free. With all that moisture in the air I knew there was a strong chance it could ruin my night. The winds were of no help either, which were at a snail like 3 mph from the general direction of west coming from Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. I also had to contend with a few thin cirrus clouds. But they were of no consequence. All-in-all, though the weather tried to step in the way of things, I squoze out as much as I could and had a great observing session.

In chronicling the eclipse, I decided to use my homebuilt SurpluShed 127mm f/9.4 "Brigadier General Richard Pierce" refractor. It was connected to and clock driven by a CG-5 EQ head (given to me by Gary Barabino) atop the recently constructed VSC North Star II field tripod. Though this particular model of the CG-5 was not designed to run on household current via a power adapter (used batteries only), I modified the battery casing so that it could. That was a great adaptation, because I needed consistent reliable power to spin the scope in order to get through imaging as much of the event as possible. We'll cover this MacGyver style task some other time via my Mel's Gleanings Pages. As for imaging, I used my Olympus Evolt E-500 DSLR in conjunction with a T-Ring adapter, 1.250" to 2.00" Focuser Adapter threaded to accept a T-Ring and a GSO 50mm Extension Tube. Below are shots of the unassembled and assembled components that make up the astrophotographic device I used to image the eclipse through the 127mm f/9.4 "BRGP" refractor. What I truly liked about the telescope was how well this aperture and focal ratio combination allowed for the best possible CCD chip coverage of the moons image at prime-focus. In essence, the telescope became an awesome 1200mm telephoto lens! Click the images below for a close-up view.


Upon getting home from work at around 01:15am EST, I immediately set up my equipment and called Gary in Slidell, LA. Turned out he was already setup and ready to go. By the time I was set to image, the eclipse was already underway. My first photo was taken at 01:30am EST.  I did not miss much of the beginning, as you can see from my first shot above. Only the penumbra shadow made itself known on the east southeast lunar limb. With all of my images set at ISO-200, I only changed the exposure times to adjust for brightness as the eclipse progressed. Starting with the first keeper image, it was taken with an exposure time of 1/250th of a second. A little bright, but detail was still easily seen. To pull out a bit more detail and contrast, I changed the shutter speed to 1/400th of a second starting with the fifth image in the sequence. And on the 9th through 14th images, I set the exposure time as fast as 1/500th of a second, reaching my limit in pulling out as much contrast as I could without having to alter the image via a photo editor. My ambition for this special observations was to use unaltered images as captured raw by the camera. Outside of cropping, no enhancements were performed. I tell you, having the right equipment to image this event surely adds to the fun, and fun we had.

The only obstacles that was threatening me was the weather and a palm tree in my front yard. It was rather chili at 38-degree, but the high humidity was trying to play havoc on the optics, and the palm tree, my view of the eclipse. My vantage point at the end of the eclipse was narrowed to the point where as I had to observe from my garage (see photo above). More details to follow..........


12/21/2010 Winter Solstice Total Lunar Eclipse Collages made by the VSC-1 and 2

A collection ofsequential eclipse images forms this collage of the Total Lunar Eclipse of 12-21-2010 as created by Mel Dawson of the VSC-2.                           A collection ofsequential eclipse images forms this collage of the Total Lunar Eclipse of 12-21-2010 as created by Gary Barabino of the VSC-1.

Mel Dawson and Gary Barabino have each created a collage using images they captured of the 12-21-2010 total lunar eclipse from their respective observatory locations. Click them to see an enlarge view.


The moon's projected path, as it traversed through the earth’s shadow during the 12/21/2010 Total Lunar Eclipse.


This chart displays the geocentric zones depicting the areas of visibility of the eclipse. Riverview, FL was positioned in the prime viewing “Full Eclipse Visible” zone.


Thanks, and Clear Skies, Forever!!!

Mel Dawson, and Gary Barabino