Total Lunar Eclipse of 9 Jan 2001


First Lunar Eclipse of the New Millennium

A fine eclipse by all accounts - anybody who missed it could instead see some good pictures of it on the front pages of Wednesday's newspapers. Much of the UK enjoyed reasonably clear skies though the west appeared to be clouded out and a veil of high cloud made the view rather murky from the south.

Reports seem to bear out the extreme south of England being hampered by cloud but elsewhere getting a clear view:-

Owing to the joys of modern rail travel (i.e. just missing a train for London at Newport then having to wait one and a half hours for another one, which was itself running slowly because of a defective engine) I missed the first half of the eclipse, though caught a few glimpses of it from the train window between 7 and 7.30pm. I arrived home around 8.30pm so saw some of the umbral phase and the moon's re-emergence.

Despite a hazy view through high cloud, the moon was clearly visible as dark orange-red during totality, and the colour remained visible until well after 3rd contact. As expected, with the current solar maximum and a clear atmosphere due to there being no recent major volcanic eruptions, it looks like this was a bright eclipse.

I managed to rush a camera and tripod outside but the lack of time to prepare and the hazy conditions means that the pictures are less than perfect, but the following two give an indication of the moon's appearance.

4 minutes after 3rd contact 40 minutes after 3rd contact

Eclipse at 2055GMT, 4 minutes after 3rd contact. The thin sliver of sunlit moon to the left is overexposed in attempt to reveal the orange umbra, though to the eye both were easily visible.

5s using 200mm lens at f/4 on Kodacolor Gold 400.

Eclipse at 2132GMT, 40 minutes after 3rd contact. The shadow has more than half left the moon so the brightness of the sunlit portion completely overwhelms the umbra, which was no longer visible visually.

1/125s using 200mm lens at f/4 on Kodacolor Gold 400.

Although unrelated to the eclipse, the thin high cloud did produce a well formed halo, like a circular silvery rainbow centred on the moon. This is quite a difficult phenomenon to photograph because of its low contrast, but this picture, taken with a wide-angle lens shows most of it...

Lunar Corona

Lunar Halo at 2125GMT.

1/15s using 35mm lens at f/2.8 on Kodacolor Gold 400.

The SunDog Atmospheric Optics website has examples of halos and related phemonena, plus an excellent explanation of how they arise.

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