This time, we will be offering a study of star clusters. We will have the big telescope trained on many of the various types of beautiful star clusters visible at this time of year, and offer a study session of each. A great learning opportunity, especially newcomers to astronomy, or to anyone who simply loves the beauty of star clusters!
32″ (0.8m) DFM Cassegrain telescope, Bob Wright Building, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Finally! We caught a well-deserved break in the weather for the UVic observing session last night. John, Chris, and I were joined by Miles, Reg, Les, Barb, Diane, Lauri, and David for a tour of and dozen interesting open clusters, finishing off with a lovely view of M42. Despite the ridiculously bright (unshielded) lights from Centennial Stadium and some significant mist, the viewing was terrific.
Or, maybe it’s just that we haven’t seen stars for so long it just *seemed* terrific?
Nah. It was great! Thanks for coming out everyone, and thanks to John and Chris for helping host these sessions, and to Reg for his weather prognostications. You nailed it!
We will announce the next session, hopefully in January.
We had a good session at the UVic Observatory last evening observing open clusters across the Milky Way. A list of the clusters and photo of the observers are attached. We also had a look at Pleiades and M42.
Those attending were David Lee, Diane Bell, Reg Dunkley, Miles Waite, Lauri Roche, Leslie Welsh and Barbra Wright.
It was Sherry’s idea to follow a theme for the evening and that seemed to go down very well with those present. The hosts, Chris, Sherry and I plan to do this again with galaxies being the focus next time.
There’s something nice about a clear night in the middle of a December “wind and rain” parade !! Several members joined John McDonald and Sherry Buttnor for a lovely evening under the 0.8 meter reflector at U-Vic’s Bob Wright Building. We enjoyed our “tour” of several open clusters; many of them were Messiers. The icing on the “cake” was a view of M42 in Orion, with the Trapezium….My favourite was M103, the Christmas Tree cluster – in the constellation of Cassiopeia. Very pretty through the ‘scope. Thanks to John, Sherry and Chris for organizing it; also a good commentary shared on each target!!
Ready to target another Messier.
About ten of us came up to the Dome to enjoy the show.
Before the white lights were turned off….a view of the 0.8 Reflector
At the control centre – ready to move the big ‘scope into position
The weather was clear for this total Lunar Eclipse. RASC Victoria Centre members were observing from various locations around Victoria, including Cattle Point, Mt. Tolmie, Clover Point, and Esquimalt Lagoon. It was a beautiful clear Sunday night with mild temperatures, so thousands of members of the public came out to see the apparition as the Moon rose in the east around 7PM. Many missed the first minutes of the eclipse since the Moon was obscured by low clouds along the SE horizon, however once it cleared the clouds, it was a spectacular sight! By 9PM, the show was over and police at the various locations directed traffic as people returned home.
Several of our members captures excellent photos. Please browse the gallery or watch the slideshow below.
On Sunday, September 27th, weather willing, we will be able to view a total eclipse of the Moon. The Moon rises already in partial eclipse as the Sun sets just after 7 pm PDT. After reaching totality the Moon will gradually regain its brightness over the course of 3 hours. It’s a perfect opportunity to capture some snapshots of the event. Read further to find out what happens during the eclipse and how to capture it photographically.
This will be the last total Lunar Eclipse visible in North America until January 2018!
A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth comes between the Sun and the Moon. During a lunar eclipse the Moon’s position traverses the Earth’s shadow. The Moon’s first contact with the Earth’s shadow is at the outer band of the shadow called the penumbra. The light falling on the Moon is progressively blocked until at the moment of total eclipse the Moon is completely in the darkest central area of the Earth’s shadow called the umbra. At the point of total eclipse the process starts to reverse itself until the Moon is totally out of the Earth’s shadow.
limb – the outer edge of the Moon
penumbra – the outer band of the Earth’s shadow
umbra – the darker central area of the Earth’s shadow
partial eclipse – the Moon is positioned within the penumbra
total eclipse – the Moon is positioned totally within the umbra
E C L I P S E T I M E L I N E
Moon below the horizon
Moon’s eastern limb enters the penumbra
5:11 pm PDT
Partial eclipse begins – 1st Contact
Moon’s eastern limb enters the umbra
6:07 pm PDT
6:58 pm PDT (approx)
Total eclipse starts – 2nd Contact
Moon entirely in the umbra;
deep orange red
7:11 pm PDT
7:47 pm PDT
Total eclipse ends – 3rd Contact
8:23 pm PDT
Partial eclipse ends – 4th Contact
Moon’s western limb leaves the umbra
9:27 pm PDT
Moon leaves the penumbra
10:22 pm PDT
Above Eclipse times are for Pacific Daylight Saving Time (PDT) for the west coast of North America.
What do you need?
Everything from your eyes, binoculars and telescope are suitable. Bear in mind this is a long process and at this time of year dress warmly and bring a chair if you want to be comfortable.
Find yourself a location that has a clear horizon view of the east especially if you wish to view during the early stages.
Keep a log of what you see and note the time. Pay attention to how much of the light on the moon is obscured and if there are any colouration changes. During the total eclipse the Moon will take on a deep orange-red colour. The colour of the Moon is a function of contaminants in the atmosphere and varies from year to year.
Any camera with the capability of setting shutter speeds and aperture settings manually will do fine. The ability to use interchangeable lenses will be an advantage for more detailed images of the Moon. For the darker parts of the eclipse, eg. totality you should use a tripod support for best results. If you have access to a telescope you can try capturing the event using prime focus techniques through the telescope optics.
Today’s digital cameras are very sensitive to light reflected by the Moon. Use ISO 400 to ISO 800 and a long telephoto lens or zoom setting. Smartphones and point-and-shoot digital cameras will not produce rewarding photos of the eclipsed Moon, but can be useful for taking panoramic shots of your surroundings which include the eclipsed Moon.
The simplest eclipse pictures can be taken with manual settings on your camera and a normal lens, preferably supported by a tripod. For best results use a cable release to minimize vibration. Images taken in this fashion result in a small lunar image. This is why it is preferable to use a telephoto lens to photograph the Moon. For a 35mm camera try a 200mm lens or something close to this, even better a 500mm lens or higher. You may also use teleconvertors to increase magnification, these typically come in 1.4x and 2x strengths. Their downside is they reduce the effective aperture of your optical system. A 1.4x teleconvertor will decrease your effective exposure by 1 stop, a 2x teleconvertor will decrease your effective exposure by 2 stops. Work out your effective aperture of your optical system ahead of time so you don’t have to think about it on the night of the eclipse.
Effective Focal Length
with 2x teleconvertor
with 2x teleconvertor
To achieve any higher magnification than what is stated above you will have to use a telescope at prime focus. For this your manual camera does need to have the capability of using interchangeable lenses. For prime focus you will use the telescope optics as your interchangeable lens. To attach your camera to your telescope you will need two things a T-adapter that fits your camera and a telescope camera adapter that fits your telescope. The telescope camera adapter is designed to fit in the focusing tube of your telescope and is threaded to accept the T-adapter of your camera. With the magnification involved with telescopic optics it is likely that you will need to use a tracking mount. Preferably the mount should be able to track at lunar speed as opposed to sidereal but if the shutter speeds chosen are shorter than 1 or 2 minutes this is not critical.
Exposure times are the next consideration. The following exposure times are based on a medium speed film and an effective aperture that would be common with a long telephoto and teleconverter combination. Exposures may vary with your equipment based on ISO speed of film used and effective aperture. The Danjon Lunar Eclipse Luminosity Scale has been included to provide better guesstimates for totality.
Exposure Times: based on ISO 400
1/250 second at f/16
1/125 second at f/16 see note 1.
2 seconds at f/16 see note 2.
*see table below
L = 4 :
8 seconds at f16
L = 3:
30 seconds at f16
L = 2:
2 minutes at f16
L = 1:
8 minutes at f16
2 seconds at f/16 see note 2.
1/125 second at f/16 see note 1.
* Danjon Lunar Eclipse Luminosity Scale
L = 1
dark eclipse; lunar surface details distinguishable only with difficultly
L = 2
deep red or rust coloured eclipse; central part of the umbra dark but outer rim relatively bright
L = 3
brick-red eclipse; usually with a brighter (frequently yellow) rim to the umbra
L = 4
very bright copper-red or orange eclipse, with a bluish, very bright umbral rim
Note 1. 1st and 4th contact times given for the partial phases are biased for the light part of the Moon. Remember you are dealing with vastly different exposures between the light and dark parts of the Moon during eclipse. The bias of about 1 stop minus avoids overexposure of the dominant bright area of the Moon.
Note 2. 2nd and 3rd contact times given for the partial phases are biased for the dark part of the Moon. The bias of about 1 stop plus is a good strategy for negative film not quite so good for slides and digital capture given they don’t tolerate overexposure well.
The exposure times are only recommendations. Remember the cardinal rule about photography … bracket. Always try exposures plus and minus your chosen exposure. This gives you a better chance at getting usable results. Let’s all hope for clear weather. If you have any questions please send email to David Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Lee – original image and text
Joe Carr – updated for 2015
Brenda Stuart – illustrations
The Total Lunar Eclipse of 2008 was very similar to this one in 2015. Here is the online gallery of some of our members’ photos of that event.
I have produced a short video of the International Space Station going over the Victoria Centre Observatory on the 12th of April. The track starts near Pleiades and goes almost through Polaris as it arcs over the VCO.
This video shows a pass of the International Space Station over the Victoria Centre Observatory on April 12, 2014. The first frame shows the ISS just past Pleiades. From there it goes on to pass very close to Polaris then exits stage right.
The Messier Marathon from Victoria was a bust this year. Both March 28 and 29 were cloudy, so it was called off.
Our member Elizabeth van Akker spends her winters in New Mexico, and had much better luck:
Hello, all, from sunny New Mexico. My friend Lesa and I successfully completed the Messier Marathon. The weather was great, the skies dark. We especially enjoyed watching the summer Milky Way rising in the early morning. From here, all of Scorpio is visible, and Sagitarius is glorious. The most difficult part was the beginning, 77, 74, 33, 31, 32, 110 were low in the west and only just visible. We are delighted with our results!
We would like to highlight the exceptional work accomplished by one of our members. As you may know Michel Michaud has been busy photographing stars in the Pleiades. Last year Michel submitted a paper titled “Double Star Measurements in the Pleiades Cluster Using a DSLR Camera” to the University of South Alabama. This paper was subsequently published in the October 2012 edition of the Journal of Double Star Observations.