27 September 2015 perigree total lunar eclipse

27 September 2015 marked the fourth lunar eclipse of the current tetrad (four total lunar eclipses within 2 years). It also marks a rare ‘Super Moon’ eclipse, where the total eclipse coincides with the moon being at perigree, or the point in its orbit when it is closest to the earth.  This makes the moon bigger in the sky (the moon doesn’t change size, it’s just that it’s closer, so it appears larger, more on that later) I got lucky in that the weather all day had been almost nothing but a sheet of solid grey clouds.  We’d get the occasional pop-through sunlight, but that would just as quickly disappear back into the grey.  Kelly was very kind and put Maddie down for the night (singing lullabies is usually daddy’s job), and so I hustled off down to Quantico to set up and pray.

Just as I cleared the tunnel under the AMTRAK line and turned onto the traffic circle on Marine Corps University, I was greeted with the most glorious gap in the clouds.  I’m glad the MPs weren’t out, since I came to a screeching halt in the intersection and grabbed the camera off the passenger seat:
28SEP Quantico Fountain


After setting up the scope and doing a solar-system alignment on the moon itself, I snapped a couple shots of the full moon:
28SEP Full Moon

From where I was, I couldn’t really make out when the penumbra started crossing the moon, but it was VERY obvious when the umbra showed up:
28SEP Umbra Starts

At 8 minutes from totality, I still couldn’t get detail in the disc of the moon without the still-lit crescent blowing the whole photo out, but I could still capture detail in the crescent:
28SEP 8 Minutes from Totality

Five minutes from totality the crescent illumination had dropped off enough to start to expose for the ‘blacked-out’ disc itself:
28SEP 5 Minutes from Totality

28SEP15 Total Eclipse

The clouds rolled back in, and rather than wait around and risk having to pack up rapidly due to rain showers, I packed it in and headed home.

I’ll likely put a better version up later with the sky background cut completely out so it doesn’t darken the ‘larger’ moon, but here’s a quick composite I put together with powerpoint showing why it’s called a ‘Super’ moon:  The smaller eclipse picture is from the 8 Oct 2014 total eclipse, and the larger one is from last night.  This is using the exact same equipment (shot with a Canon T1i mounted prime-focus on a Celestron NexStar 8 GPS with f/6.3 focal reducer/corrector, for a 1280mm focal length), so the difference in the size is entirely due to the moon being closer last night than it was back in October
8OCT14 28SEP15 Lunar Eclipse Overlay

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