Monthly Archives: August 2018

The longest lunar eclipse of the century

The longest lunar eclipse of the 21st century was a good occasion/motivation for me to do a bit of astrophotography again (after my wide-field adventures on La Palma last year). I wanted to take some close-up pictures of the Moon, so I bought a relatively inexpensive and compact 1000 mm f/10 Maksutov Telescope (from TS-Optics). My Sky-Watcher Sky Adventurer mount could still take the combined weight of this and my Canon EOS 6D camera, but my old Manfrotto tripod proved to be not exactly as stable as hoped for at this focal length… Of course I did not notice this during my test shots a few nights before the eclipse, because back then there was no wind at all, but later during the eclipse itself the vibrations caused by gusts were quite a bit of a problem.

The day of the eclipse was the hottest day of summer so far (although today might have broken that record), but also the last day of a heatwave, and as such, storms were closing in on the low countries from France during the afternoon. Looking at the satellite pictures and the weather models I was pretty sure that it would not stay clear in Leuven, so we got into the car and drove an hour (93 km) to the East – away from the storms – and set up the equipment on the Southern flanks of the Fort d’Aubin-Neufchâteau (which I scouted on Google Maps making sure that the view towards the Southeast would be more-or-less unobscured, as during the eclipse the Moon would stay quite close to the horizon).


The moon rose already fully submerged inside the shadow of the Earth, so it was very difficult to spot it in front of the bright background of the evening twilight. By the time I found Polaris (and aligned the tracking mount to be able to follow the movement of the Moon during longer exposures), the eclipse was just past its maximal phase.





As mentioned earlier, it became clear already during the initial setup (while focusing on the rings of Saturn), that my tripod was not strong enough to hold the whole system perfectly stable against the wind, so my strategy during the eclipse was the following: I kept taking pictures basically continuously hoping that there would be at least a few during which the wind would be weak or constant enough to not move the tripod too much, so with some luck I would get a few good-enough photographs at the end. This worked out as expected (with Clio’s not small contribution as a paravent), so the expedition became a total success :) The settings I used during the totality: ISO 3200, 2.5-2 sec. Settings in the partial phase: ISO 800-1600, 1/60-2 sec.





We stayed almost until the end of the partial phase, but by midnight the clouds reached us, so we had to pack in and drive home. It was still almost 30°C when we left…


Overall I am satisfied with the results, of course with a bigger budget I could have made better images. While I really like astrophotography, living in one of the most light polluted places means that I do not feel like investing a lot of money into another expensive hobby (right now). As a bonus, here is the first test shot I made a quarter before the eclipse.