20 - 21, 2008
Melvin E. Dawson, and Kenneth Ewin
The beautiful copper color of the earth’s umbra shadow is easily seen above just prior to totality taken at 21:44 pm EST. This image was taken through my 90mm f/11.1 Hybridized Konus Refractor in conjunction with my homemade camera adapter and 40mm 1.250” TeleVue Plossl. The camera used was an Olympus C-4000z 4 mega pixel point and shoot. Click the above image for an enlarged view!
Photos taken by Mel Dawson – SAO - Vega Sky Center – Riverview, FL
I had nearly
given up hope on getting a chance to see this Total Lunar Eclipse based
on the weather forecast for our area. As divine luck would have it, we
were blessed with the opportunity to view (if not the entire event) at
least the first half before clouds interceded.
Once again, as with the August 28, 2007 Total Lunar Eclipse, I woke up from a short nap nearly missing the start of the eclipse. It was 7:50 pm EST when I jumped up and began collecting together all of the equipment to be used to observe the event. Realizing I had invited an 11 year old budding amateur understudy in the neighborhood by the name of Kenneth Ewin, and as I prepared to go pick him up, his sister Tangela had already brought him over. With great haste and in short order, the instruments for tonight’s main event were prepped and readied for work. The instruments used are as follows:
Above, are a collection of fairly decent images Kenneth and I captured, which only sums up the first half of the Total Lunar Eclipse of February 20-21, 2008. We hope you enjoy viewing them as much as we did taking them and sharing this great experience. Click each photo above to reveal an enlarged image.
Synopsis of the Event by the VSC-2
all of the equipment was setup to record the Total Lunar Eclipse,
Kenneth and I took the opportunity to survey the sky conditions. The temperature was about 65°
degrees with a relative humidity around 58% percent. With clouds taking
aim on putting a damper on our efforts from the southwest and west, we
began putting the instruments to use to capture some great views and to
take some photos at around 9:15 pm EST. Winds were mild pushing at
approximately 5 to 7 miles per hour. Time was of the essence, and we did
not waste any of it in taking in its glory.
this was Kenneth’s second official observing session within the
astronomical scheme of things, I prepped my trusty Jason 60mm f/15.1 for
him. I gave him a few quick pointers on how to aim and maneuver the
scope and he absorbed the information like a dry sponge immersed in
water. I only wished that I had more time to show him the fine skills,
but again time was of the essence. Despite the “crash course”, he
appeared to be quite comfortable with the telescope. Once the moon was
in the field of view, Kenneth Ewin was very impressed with the image. He
had never seen the moon in such a manner and expressed great pleasure in
what he was seeing.
Kenneth continued to observe the progression of the eclipsing moon with
delight, I then begin preparations to photograph the partially eclipsed
satellite through my 90mm f/11.1 Hybridized Konus refractor. Using my
Olympus C-4000z 4 mega pixel digital camera set to automatic exposure at
an aperture of f/2.8 in conjunction with the wooden home-built afocal
camera adapter I constructed and 40mm TeleVue Plossl eyepiece, I
attached the assembly to the scope. Upon taking aim on the 35% eclipsed
moon at 9:13 pm EST, I took my first image. Looking at the image
reminded me quite fondly of the observation we recorded of the Partial
Lunar Eclipse of August 16, 1970, which launched the birth of the Vega
Astronomical Observatory (currently the Vega Sky Center). And here I was
working with an understudy much like it was when I was an understudy to
Gary Barabino during the August 16th 1970 event.
my laptop already setup within my covered and screened patio, I swiftly
removed the memory card from the camera after taking a single image of
the eclipse. I then
inserted it into a memory card reader to perform a quick analysis of the
photographic image quality to see if I had to make any adjustments to
the camera, and/ or telescope. Looking at the initial image on the
laptop screen, I noticed that the umbra shadow had already overtaken the
big lunar feature Oceanus Procellarum and had consumed half of Mare
Serenitatus. The rays of the crater Tycho radiated brilliantly inside of
the earth’s penumbral shadow. Though it was difficult to focus the
image on the tiny camera display with these old eyes, I managed to do a
pretty good job based on the analysis. So, I continued to take images
with no specific set interval, because clouds were threatening from the
southwest and west. Between exposures, I would go over to Kenneth to see
how he was doing. This gave me a short opportunity to show him how to
navigate the Jason 313 refractor using the slow-motion control cables.
Since I had already did a rough polar alignment of the Jason 313’s EQ
mount, I therefore instructed Kenneth Ewin to use the right ascension
axis adjustment cable to track the moon as it trekked westward across
the sky. Kenneth did well in assimilating the information I gave him and
was doing a great job of keeping the moon in the telescope’s field of
view. He was even first at discerning the beginnings of the reddish
copper color as the umbra shadow progressed west northwestward across
the moon’s surface. Kenneth was definitely excited at what he was
seeing. I commend him on his keen senses in detecting the color change.
I continued to photography the lunar eclipse’s progression, waves of
increasingly thickening high altitude cirrus and puffing regular shaped
alto cumulus clouds began to move in. As breaks in these clouds would
allow periodic glimpses of the moon to be revealed, I would hastily take
photo images. Regardless of the inundation of clouds I was pleased with
the views. The best images I capture by far were at 9:44 pm EST and 9:45
pm EST. The pronunciation of the reddish copper huge on the lunar
surface was splendid. Then, a short time later, clouds began coming in
waves putting a damper on things. During a brief moment when one of the
gap clearings unveiled the nearly total eclipsed moon, I barely managed
to capture my last possible image at 9:50 pm EST. The remaining second
half of the Total Lunar Eclipse became a mystery as clouds moved in and
obscured the sky completely. Bummer!!!
The night concluded with a bit of disappointment in knowing that above the thick and obscuring layer of clouds, a grand event was taking place, and we could not take part any further. Nevertheless, it could have been much worse. We could have been totally infiltrated with clouds obscuring the eclipse completely. But, I thank God we were able to see (if not but one half) a stupendous event, which Kenneth and I will remember for the rest of our lives.
The moon's projected path, as it traversed through the earth’s shadow during the 02/20-21/2008 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 Kenneth Ewin