December 21, 2010

Lunar Eclipse

December 21, 2010: Simon Brewer Documented a Lunar Eclipse near Wynnewood, OK


On the morning of December 20, 2010 I was driving through Missouri on my way to Oklahoma. I was out of touch with the cosmos, but, luckily, heard on the radio of an impending Lunar Eclipse for the early morning hours of the 21st. This was pure luck, because had I left a day later or earlier I probably would not have known about the eclipse. This lunar eclipse, also, was to occur on the winter solstice, which doesn't happen very often. I would have to live to be 113 years old to see the next one! When I was a boy I remember seeing a lunar eclipse in the 80's and the moon turned a dark orange color; I thought it was really cool. I was definitely going to watch this lunar eclipse.

The image on the right is a pic of the moon in the umbra stage of the eclipse. The umbra is the central dark shadow of the Earth.

I planned on taking pictures on the north end of Norman, but as the time for me to leave neared I decided to check a satellite loop. Of course there were cirrus clouds moving over northern and central Oklahoma, so I decided to drive south to get a less impeded view. Time was running out, because I did not think the cloud cover would be an issue till it was almost too late. I wanted to get to the Arbuckles in southern Oklahoma, but the eclipse had already started as I passed Pauls Valley, so I pulled over south of Wynnewood, OK around 12:45 AM.

The temperature was fine when I started taking pictures and there was a breeze, which probably helped mix the low-level air, but the breeze stopped around 2 AM and it got very cold. I had brought a chair and warm clothes, but I still ran to the car a few times to get warm. The moon is slightly to moderately blurry in all my photos, because I was using a 300mm zoom lense with a 1.8x telecoverter with no stabilization, so the moderate to slight breeze I had most of the night shook the lense just enough to get some blur in about all of my pics.

The image on the right shows the moon as it is almost in totality, where the moon is completely within the central dark shadow of the Earth.

While there was a sliver of bright light hitting the moon the area surrounding me was relatively well lit, but as the moon fell into totality the landscape fell into shadow. It's amazing to see how much light reaches the Earth and is scattered in the atmosphere. It became so dark in my area during the total eclipse I had to use a flashlight to move around, and the stars were shining significantly brighter than the dark orange/red moon. It was both awesome and eerie during the total lunar eclipse; I can see how they may have had magical or religious significance in the past.



The image on the right shows moon as it is in total eclipse. The moon was a dark red/orange almost brown; it was really dark around me at this time and the stars were brilliant.



The image on the right is a picture of the moon as the total eclipse was near its end; the moon was literally glowing.

When a sliver of light finally hit the moon again it gave such depth to the moon that it truly looked like a sphere and not a disc in the night sky. And then the stars looked like a distant backdrop, which gave significant depth to outer space; the moon was just a massive spherical hunk of rock trapped in the gravitational pull of Earth.



The image on the right is a picture showing the end of the total eclipse. I thought this was the most beautiful part of the lunar eclipse; the moon looked like a giant candle.

The light quickly spread across the moon and the umbra (central dark shadow of Earth on the moon) was becoming darker and less colorful.




The image on the right is a picture of the moon as the umbra moves away.

By 4 AM it was cold and I was very tired; the umbra was gone and I didn't want to wait for the prenumbra (lesser shadow of Earth on the moon) to pass. I packed up the chair and camera and began my drive back to Norman. The landscape around me was now well lit from the bright full moon, which was great, because I didn't need a flash light to navigate the tall grass back to the car. I was very satisfied with the night and thought it was well worth it to stay out late, alone in the cold night, to experience this total lunar eclipse.



The image on the right is a picture showing the last piece of umbra over the moon.


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