Observation of the Total Lunar Eclipse on April 15 2014

A few days ago there was a Total Lunar Eclipse occurred, visible from both North and South America and Eastern part of Pacific Ocean. It was visible of course from our southern observatory in Chile, before dawn, and we tried to record it by our insruments.

The eclipse began with a penumbral eclipse on April 15, at 4:53:37 UT (1:53:37 in Chile). In San Pedro de Atacama (where our observatory is located) the Moon was then high in the sky, about 76° above North-Western horizon. Partial Eclipse began at 5:58:19 UT (2:58:19 in Chile), when the Moon was in altitude 65°, Total Eclipse began at 7:06:47 UT (4:06:47 in Chile), and the Moon was still high in the sky, in altitude 50°, Total Eclipse ended at 8:24:35 UT (5:24:35 in Chile), when the Moon was in alititude 33° above Western horizon, Partial Eclipse ended at 9:33:04 UT (6:33:04 in Chile), when the Moon was only 18° above horizon and Penumbral Eclipse ended at 10:37:37 UT (7:37:37 in Chile), when the Moon was barely 3° above horizon, and the Sun was only 3° below horizon. The Sun rose at 10:46:00 UT (7:46:00 in Chile), and Moon set 10 minutes leater. So the partial part of the eclipse lasted 3 hours and 35 minutes, while the total part of eclipse lasted almost 78 minutes. Our system ends its work about 9:55 UT (6:55 in Chile), more or less 50 minutes before sunrise, and we were not able to observe the whole phenomenon, but the most interesting part, when the Moon crossed the Earth’s shadow.

During the eclipse the Moon was visiting constellation Virgo, near (only 2° east) its brightest star Spica and the planet Mars, which shined in this moment almost 2,5 magnitudo brighter than Spica. The Red Planet was lying about 9° North-East from the Moon. Close encounter with celestial bodies, which colour is so different, made this eclipse even more attractive.

Unfortunately it was quite shallow total eclipse, because the Moon wandered across the Earth’s shadow not through the centre, but south from it. For this reason the eclipse was bright, even in the middle of the event, which made it hard to photograph by our cameras, because of their high f-number (f/1.2). Additional bad luck was connected with clouds, which appeared just before start of eclipse, but fortunately they dissappeared, when the Moon was totally immersed in the shadow and sky was clear until dawn. Therefore we have no pictures from the beginning of the event (which occured too bright to us nevertheless), but only from the middle of the total part of the eclipse.

Below there are some examples of our observations. There are crops about 660×660 pixels, where size of the Moon is equal about 50 pixels. All of them were taken during the total phase, the last one – within 4 minutes before end. The star in the lower left corner is Spica.