RogerBW's Blog

Total Lunar Eclipse, September 2015 29 September 2015

I hadn't particularly planned to stay up for this, but then I noticed that the next total lunar eclipse isn't due for a while.

Even so, I didn't use the big camera; I wanted to see how my Powershot A1300 would manage. Answer: reasonably well. I've cropped these images, but not otherwise enhanced them.

02:43:46 BST - the partial eclipse has been going on for 36 minutes. Some blurring.

02:46:11 BST - two minutes before periapsis. Shaded umbral disc clearly visible.

03:05:04, 03:08:34, 03:09:08 BST - last of the direct illumination.

03:13:39 BST - totality has begun.

03:23:27 BST - full shadow.

The camera didn't capture anything like the copper colour of the real thing; the only place there's colour information at all is on the brighter limb.

The next total lunar eclipse will be on 31 January 2018, but it'll happen in the early afternoon in the UK. On 27 July 2018 there'll be an eclipse that starts well before sunset, with totality ending around 22.13 local time. The next total lunar eclipse fully visible from here will be in the early morning of 21 January 2019.

(I believe that the next total solar eclipse visible from Loudwater will not occur until 2600AD, by which time I do not expect to be living here. Though there will be a totality in the Channel Islands in 2081, and one in Cornwall in 2090.)

Wikipedia page showing the anatomy of the eclipse.


  1. Posted by Chris Bell at 11:51am on 29 September 2015

    I drove down to Devon with a carload of adolescents and a child to see the August 1999 solar eclipse: big adventure for them setting out in the middle of the night to see something both timeless and immediate, a lifetime one-off. I disliked it, personally: it gave me the grue; but I am glad that I did bother. We were lucky at Start Point: it had been cloudy and I had begun to fear no sighting, but in the end it was clear enough to be fully visible for us. Very eerie, unforgettable as a sensation, indescribable, and a bit dismal. It was enlivened by the very human fact that as the totality started the entire coast in both directions was suddenly a mass of pinpoints of light as everyone set a camera off: I had never before had such a clear picture of that coastline.

    I had been told beforehand that birds become silent when there is an eclipse. In 1999 I discovered that seagulls are not birds by that definition, because they clearly felt as I did, and all took off from the cliffs and screamed their heads off to voice their disapproval of the whole business.

    As the shadow passed, at the moment when the sun appeared again at the edge of its disc, everyone round me rose to their feet if they had been sitting down, and gave it a round of applause: not cheering, just clapping. A very British reaction I thought it.

    And then we took nearly seven hours to get home to Bristol, because Devon was FULL and all the lanes to the A38 were at a near-standstill. I think all the five million visitors they get in a summer must have been there for that single morning as a sort of non-profit extra. That hadn't occurred to me in advance, so it was lucky we'd taken a packed breakfast and lunch and could eat in the car (somewhere near Totnes).

    Memo to self: must ask children whether they remember it. I hope they do.

  2. Posted by Owen Smith at 02:08pm on 29 September 2015

    I fail to see the point of owning a decent camera and not using it for something like this. You claim the little camera did reasonably well, I would answer that it did appallingly badly in my view. And given the hour this event lasted, you could probably have used both.

    I didn't stay up for this. I needed to be at work next day, and lack of sleep makes me completely useless at work and this is a new job that I want to keep. Also when I have stayed up for things in the past they've all been clouded over. I've no idea what the lunar eclipse was like from Cambridge.

    My mum got up in the night in Yorkshire, she says it was great and the stars were really good too. But then part of her view is across the Pennines, where there is less light pollution (Cambridge is terrible for that).

    I have seen a total lunar eclipse at night before. I came home one evening from work, looked up, and there was a full moon all orange/red. I had no idea what was causing it, and this was before I had internet access at home. It was several days before I found out what it was from an astronomy enthusiast.

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