All titles are clickable and link to the original APOD page. Click on an image for a larger view of it.
2012 January 2
Where's the full Moon? Somewhere in this image, the Earth's Moon is hiding. The entire Moon is visible, in its completely full phase, in plain sight. Even the photographer's keen eye couldn't find it even though he knew exactly where to look -- only the long exposure of his camera picked it up -- barely. Although by now you might be congratulating yourself on finding it, why was it so difficult to see? For one reason, this photograph was taken during the total lunar eclipse last month, when the Earth's shadow made the Moon much dimmer than a normal full Moon. For another, the image, taken in Colorado, USA, was captured just 12 minutes before sunrise. With the Moon on the exact opposite side of the sky from the Sun, this meant that the Sun was just below the horizon, but still slightly illuminating the sky. Last, as the Moon was only about two degrees above the horizon, the large volume of air between the camera and the horizon scattered a lot of light away from the background Moon. Twelve minutes after this image was acquired the Sun peeked over the horizon and the Moon set.
2011 December 24
December's lunar eclipse graced early morning skies over the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, USA. There, this wintry scene finds the Moon in a cold blue twilight sky near the western horizon, above the snowy North American Continental Divide. About 22 minutes before the sunrise, the reddened lunar disk is almost completely immersed in Earth's dark shadow. This dramatic Rocky Mountain moon set during the eclipse total phase. But all parts of the geocentric celestial event were seen from Pacific regions, Asia, and Australia, including the entire 51 minutes of totality, and parts of the final eclipse of 2011 were shared in skies around much of planet Earth.
2011 December 16
This surreal, wintry scene is a composite picture recorded on December 10 as the Moon rose behind the Zagros Mountains of Iran. A total lunar eclipse was already in progress. The image combines nearly 500 successive frames taken over 1.5 hours beginning in twilight as the eclipsed Moon steadily climbed above the rugged landscape. The reddened lunar disk and deep blue twilight make for a striking contrast, yet the contrasting colors have the same root cause. The eclipsed Moon is red because the Earth's umbral shadow is suffused with a faint red light. The ruddy illumination is from all the reddened sunsets and sunrises, as seen from a lunar perspective. But the sunsets and sunrises are reddened because the Earth's atmosphere scatters blue light more strongly than red, creating the twilight sky's dim, blue glow.
2011 December 15
The dark, inner shadow of planet Earth is called the umbra. Shaped like a cone extending into space, it has a circular cross section most easily seen during a lunar eclipse. For example, last Saturday the Full Moon slid across the southern half of Earth's umbral shadow, entertaining moonwatchers around much of the planet. In the total phase of the eclipse, the Moon was completely within the umbra for 51 minutes. Recorded from Beijing, China, this composite eclipse image uses successive pictures from totality (center) and partial phases to trace out a large part of the umbra's curved edge. Background stars are visible in the darker eclipse phases. The result shows the relative size of the shadow's cross section at the distance of the Moon, as well as the Moon's path through Earth's umbra.
2011 December 14
Our Moon turned red last week. The reason was that during December 10, a total lunar eclipse occurred. The above digitally superimposed image mosaic captured the Moon many times during the eclipse, from before the Moon entered Earth's shadow until after the Moon exited. The image sequence was recorded over a Shanti Stupa Peace Pagota near the center of New Delhi, India. The red tint of the eclipsed Moon was created by sunlight first passing through the Earth's atmosphere, which preferentially scatters blue light (making the sky blue) but passes and refracts red light, before reflecting back off the Moon. Differing amounts of clouds and volcanic dust in the Earth's atmosphere make each lunar eclipse appear differently. The next total lunar eclipse will occur only in 2014.
2011 December 9
Tomorrow, December 10, the Full Moon will slide through planet Earth's shadow in a total lunar eclipse. The entire eclipse sequence, including 51 minutes of totality, will be visible from Asia and Australia, but moonwatchers in Europe and Africa will miss out on the beginning partial phases because for them, the eclipse will start before moonrise. In central and western North America the earlier phases of the eclipse will be in progress as the Moon sets. In fact, while those in the east will miss out, North Americans far enough west could see a scene very much like this one, with a mostly eclipsed Moon low and near the western horizon during morning twilght. This morning twilight view of another lunar eclipse approaching its total phase at moonset was captured in 2008 on February 21, from the Zagros Mountains of Iran.
2011 July 11
Image Credit & Copyright: Jean-Luc Dauvergne (Ciel et Espace); Music: Valère Leroy & Sophie Huet (Space-Music)
If the full Moon suddenly faded, what would you see? The answer during the total lunar eclipse last month was recorded in a dramatic time lapse video from Tajikistan. During a total lunar eclipse, the Earth moves between the Moon and the Sun, causing the moon to fade dramatically. The Moon never gets completely dark, though, since the Earth's atmosphere refracts some light. As the above video begins, the scene may appear to be daytime and sunlit, but actually it is a nighttime and lit by the glow of the full Moon. As the moon becomes eclipsed and fades, the wind dies down and background stars can be seen reflected in foreground lake. Most spectacularly, the sky surrounding the eclipsed moon suddenly appears to be full of stars and highlighted by the busy plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. The sequence repeats with a closer view, and the final image shows the placement of the eclipsed Moon near the Eagle, Swan, Trifid, and Lagoon nebulas. Nearly two hours after the eclipse started, the moon emerges from the Earth's shadow and its bright full glare again dominates the sky.
2011 June 25
The total phase of the June 15 lunar eclipse lasted an impressive 100 minutes. Its entire duration is covered in this composite of a regular sequence of digital camera exposures, tracking the dark lunar disk as it arced above the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. In fact, around 270 BCE Greek astronomer Aristarchus also tracked the duration of lunar eclipses, though without the benefit of digital clocks and cameras. Still, using geometry, he devised a simple and impressively accurate way to calculate the Moon's distance, in terms of the radius of planet Earth, from the eclipse duration. A more modern Greek astronomer, Elias Politis titled this eclipse duration study and the accompanying youtube timelapse video "Acropoclipse".
2011 June 21
A celestial prelude to today's solstice, the June 15 total lunar eclipse was one of the longest in recent years. It was also one of the darkest, but not completely dark. Even during totality, a somber, red lunar disk could be seen in the starry night sky, reflecting reddened light falling on to its surface. Seen from a lunar perspective, the ruddy illumination is from all the sunsets and sunrises around the edges of a silhouetted Earth. In this sharp portrait of the eclipsed Moon from Granada, Spain, the Moon's edge reflects a bluish tinge as well as it emerges from Earth's umbral shadow. The bluer light is still filtered through Earth's atmosphere, but originates in rays of sunlight passing through layers high in the upper stratosphere. That light is colored by ozone that absorbs red light and transmits bluer hues.
2011 June 18
Thunderstorms almost spoiled this view of the spectacular June 15 total lunar eclipse. Instead, storm clouds parted for 10 minutes during the total eclipse phase and lightning bolts contributed to the dramatic sky. Captured with a 30 second exposure the scene also inspired what, in the 16 year history of Astronomy Picture of the Day, the editor considers may be the best title yet for a picture (title credit to Chris K.). Of course, the lightning reference clearly makes sense, and the shadow play of the dark lunar eclipse was widely viewed across planet Earth in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. The picture itself, however, was shot from the Greek island of Ikaria at Pezi. That area is known as "the planet of the goats" because of the rough terrain and strange looking rocks.
2011 June 17
Image Credit & Copyright: Babak Tafreshi (TWAN)
On June 15, the totally eclipsed Moon was very dark, with the Moon itself positioned on the sky toward the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. This simple panorama captures totality from northern Iran in 8 consecutive exposures each 40 seconds long. In the evocative scene, the dark of the eclipsed Moon competes with the Milky Way's faint glow. The tantalizing red lunar disk lies just above the bowl of the dark Pipe Nebula, to the right of the glowing Lagoon and Trifid nebulae and the central Milky Way dust clouds. At the far right, the wide field is anchored by yellow Antares and the colorful clouds of Rho Ophiuchi. To identify other sights of the central Milky Way just slide your cursor over the image. The total phase of this first lunar eclipse of 2011 lasted an impressive 100 minutes. Parts of the eclipse were visible from most of planet Earth, with notable exceptions of North and Central America.
2011 May 9
Credit: Yuri Beletsky (ESO)
What's that bright orange dot above the large telescope on the right? Even seasoned sky enthusiasts might ponder the origin of the orange orb seen by scrolling across this panoramic image, taken last December. Perhaps identifying known objects will help. To start, on the far left is a diagonal band of light known as zodiacal light, sunlight reflected off of dust orbiting in the inner Solar System. The bright white spot on the left, just above the horizon, is Venus, which also glows by reflected sunlight. Rising diagonally from the ground to the right of Venus is the band of our Milky Way Galaxy. In the image, the band, which usually stretches dramatically overhead, appears to arch above the elevated Chilean landscape. Under the Milky Way arch, toward the left, lie both the Large and Small Magellanic Cloud galaxies, while toward the right lies the constellation of Orion surrounded by the red ring of Barnard's Loop. On the ground, each of the four Very Large Telescopes is busy keeping an eye on the distant universe. The orange spot -- it's the Moon. The image was taken during a total lunar eclipse when the normally bright full moon turned into a faint orb tinted orange by the intervening Earth's atmosphere.
2010 December 29
Hugging the horizon, a dark red Moon greeted early morning skygazers in eastern Atlantic regions on December 21, as the total phase of 2010's Solstice Lunar Eclipse began near moonset. This well composed image of the geocentric celestial event is a composite of multiple exposures following the progression of the eclipse from Tenerife, Canary Islands. Initially reflecting brightly on a sea of clouds and the ocean's surface itself, the Moon sinks deeper into eclipse as it moves from left to right across the sky. Opposite the Sun, the Moon was immersed in the darkest part of Earth's shadow as it approached the western horizon, just before sunrise came to Tenerife.
2010 December 23
A big, bright, beautiful Full Moon slid into planet Earth's shadow early Tuesday morning. Remarkably, the total lunar eclipse coincided with the date of the December Solstice. During the eclipse, the best viewing in North America found the coppery lunar disc high in a cold winter sky, the Moon reddened by light filtering into the Earth's dark central shadow or umbra. The light comes from all the sunsets and sunrises, seen from a lunar perspective around the edges of a silhouetted Earth. Passing closer to the center of the umbra, the Moon's southern hemisphere (left) appears darker in this eclipse image, recorded from Deerlick Astronomy Village, Georgia, USA. The picture is a digital composite, a separate longer exposure added to an eclipse frame to capture the surrounding star field.
2010 December 20
Credit & Copyright: Jerry Lodriguss (Catching the Light)
Sometime after sunset tonight, the Moon will go dark. This total lunar eclipse, where the entire Moon is engulfed in the shadow of the Earth, will be visible from all of North America, while the partial phase of this eclipse will be visible throughout much of the rest of the world. Observers on North America's east coast will have to wait until after midnight for totality to begin, while west coasters should be able to see a fully darkened moon before midnight. Pictured above is a digital prediction, in image form, for how the Moon and the surrounding sky could appear near maximum darkness. Rolling your cursor over the image will bring up labels. Parts of the Moon entering the circle labeled umbra will appear the darkest since the Sun there will be completely blocked by the Earth. Parts of the Moon entering the circle labeled penumbra will be exposed to some direct sunlight, and so shine by some degree by reflected light. The diminished glare of the normally full Moon will allow unusually good viewings of nearby celestial wonders such as the supernova remnant Simeis 147, the open star cluster M35, and the Crab Nebula M1. By coincidence this eclipse occurs on the day with the shortest amount of daylight in the northern hemisphere -- the Winter Solstice. This solstice eclipse is the first in 456 years, although so far it appears that no one has figured out when the next solstice eclipse will be.
2010 December 20
What's happened to the Moon? This past weekend, once again, part of the Moon moved through the Earth's shadow. This happens about once or twice a year, on the average, but not each month since the Moon's orbit around the Earth is slightly tilted. Pictured above, the face of a full moon is partly blocked by Earth's clouds, and partly darkened on the upper right by Earth's umbral shadow. Clouds permitting, the partial lunar eclipse was visible from the half of the Earth facing the Moon at the time of the eclipse, which included much of Earth's Pacific Rim. On July 11, a total eclipse of the Sun will be visible in a thin swath of Earth crossing the southern Pacific Ocean.
2010 January 2
The International Year of Astronomy 2009 ended with a Blue Moon and a partial lunar eclipse, as the second Full Moon of December grazed the Earth's shadow on December 31st. The New Year's Eve Blue Moon eclipse was visible throughout Europe, Asia, Africa and parts of Alaska, captured in this two exposure composite in cloudy skies over Saint Bonnet de Mure, France. Playing across the Moon's southern reaches, the edge of Earth's umbra, or dark central shadow, appears on the right side along with the prominent ray crater Tycho. At maximum eclipse, the umbra covered only about 8 percent of the diameter of the lunar disk.
2009 April 17
Discovered by accident, this manuscript page provides graphical insight to astronomy in medieval times, before the Renaissance and the influence of Nicolaus Copernicus, Tycho de Brahe, Johannes Kepler, and Galileo. The intriguing page is from lecture notes on astronomy compiled by the monk Magister Wolfgang de Styria before the year 1490 at Melk Abbey in Austria. The top panels clearly illustrate the necessary geometry for a lunar (left) and solar eclipse in the Earth-centered Ptolemaic system. At lower left is a diagram of the Ptolemaic view of the solar system and at the lower right is a chart to calculate the date of Easter Sunday in the Julian calendar. Text at the upper right explains the movement of the planets according to the Ptolemaic system. The actual manuscript page is on view at historic Melk Abbey as part of a special exhibition during the International Year of Astronomy.
2008 August 21
This August was eclipse season. The month's first New Moon and Full Moon were both seen in darkened skies during a solar and lunar eclipse. Blocking the Sun, the left panel's New Moon was captured during the total solar eclipse of August 1 from the path of totality overlooking Novosibirsk (Siberia) Reservoir, locally known as the Ob Sea. A lovely solar corona and bright inner planets Mercury and Venus emerged during the total eclipse phase, while the flickering view screens of eclipse watchers' digital cameras dotted the landscape. On the right, the Full Moon grazed Earth's shadow nearly 15 days later in a partial lunar eclipse. That serene view was recorded during an early evening stroll along the shores of the Odet River near the city of Quimper in western France. For planet Earth there are about two seasons each year during which the orientation of the Moon's orbit is favorable for solar and lunar eclipses. The next eclipse season begins in January 2009 with an annular solar eclipse.
2008 August 20
The dark, inner shadow of planet Earth is called the umbra. Shaped like a cone extending into space, the umbra has a circular cross section that can be most easily seen during a lunar eclipse. For example, last Saturday the Full Moon slid across the northern edge of the umbra. Entertaining moon watchers throughout Earth's eastern hemisphere, the lunar passage created a deep but partial lunar eclipse. This composite image uses successive pictures recorded during the eclipse from Athens, Greece to trace out a large part of the umbra's curved edge. The result nicely illustrates the relative size of the umbra's cross section at the distance of the Moon, as well as the Moon's path through the Earth's shadow.
2008 March 1
Just opposite the setting Sun, the already-eclipsed Moon rose over the Hawaiian Islands on February 20. A view near the 14,000 foot peak of volcanic Mauna Kea on the Big Island, a popular spot for astronomers, offered this remarkable play of shadows and sunlight. With snowy cinder cones in the foreground, the Moon lies within the shadow cast by the mountain -- a shadow extending across a lower cloud deck and on through Earth's dense atmosphere. As the lunar eclipse is drawing to a close, the curved shadow of the limb of planet Earth itself can also be traced across the Moon's surface, some 400,000 kilometers away.
2008 February 29
Welcome to the extra day in the Gregorian Calendar's leap year 2008! To celebrate, consider this grid of lunar eclipse pictures - starting in leap year 1996 and ending with February's eclipse - with the date in numerical year/month/day format beneath each image. Mostly based on visibility from a site in Turkey, the 3x4 matrix includes 11 of the 13 total lunar eclipses during that period, and fills out the grid with the partial lunar eclipse of September 2006. Still, as the pictures are at the same scale, they illustrate a noticeable variation in the apparent size of the eclipsed Moon caused by the real change in Earth-Moon distance around the Moon's elliptical orbit. The total phases are also seen to differ in color and darkness. Those effects are due to changes in cloud cover and dust content in the atmosphere reddening and refracting sunlight into Earth's shadow. Of course, the next chance to add a total lunar eclipse to this grid will come at the very end of the decade.
2008 February 22
Moon watchers blessed with clear skies over the Americas, Europe, Africa and western Asia enjoyed a total lunar eclipse this week. Catching eclipsed moonlight, astroimager Jerry Lodriguss offers this view of the inspiring celestial event with the shadowed Moon accompanied by wandering planet Saturn at the left, and bright Regulus, alpha star of the constellation Leo, above. The engaging composite picture was made by combining a filtered, telephoto image of the Moon and surrounding starfield with a telescopic exposure. The combination dramatizes the reddened moonlight while clearly showing the variation of brightness and color in Earth's not-so-dark shadow across the lunar surface.
2008 February 20
No special filters - or even a telescope - are required to enjoy a leisurely lunar eclipse. In fact, watched from all over the night side of planet Earth, these regular celestial performances have entertained many casual skygazers. Still, this eye-catching picture of a lunar eclipse may look unfamiliar. To make it, astroimager Stefan Seip set his camera on a tripod and locked the shutter open during the total lunar eclipse of March 3, 2007. The resulting image records the trail of the Moon (and narrower trails of stars) sliding through the night. Reddish hues common during the total phase of a lunar eclipse, are evident along the darker, slimmer portion of the Moon trail. At least part of tonight's lunar eclipse will be visible in clear skies over the Americas, Europe, Africa and western Asia. The eclipse lasts over three hours from start to finish, with about 50 minutes of totality. Tonight's eclipse is the last total lunar eclipse until December of 2010.
2007 September 1
Recorded on August 28th, this serene total lunar eclipse sequence looks southwest down Kalamalka Lake toward the lights of Coldstream, British Columbia. An exposure every 4 minutes captured the Moon's position and eclipse phase, until the Moon set behind the town lights and a hill on the horizon. In fact, the sequence effectively measures the duration of the total phase of the eclipse. Around 270 BC, the Greek astronomer Aristarchus also measured the duration of lunar eclipses - though probably without the benefit of digital clocks and cameras. Still, using geometry, he devised a simple and impressively accurate way to calculate the Moon's distance, in terms of the radius of planet Earth, from the eclipse duration.
2007 August 30
The Moon passed close to the center of Earth's shadow on August 28th. Seen best by skywatchers in western North America, and the Pacific region, the resulting total lunar eclipse was a dark one, lasting about 90 minutes. In this telescopic image taken near mid totality from Yass, NSW Australia, the 85 kilometer wide ray crater Tycho lies near the top right of the shadowed lunar surface. Of course, even during a total lunar eclipse,the Moon is not completely dark. Instead the Moon remains visible during totality, reflecting reddened light filtering into the Earth's shadow. The light comes from all the sunsets and sunrises, as seen from the lunar perspective, around the edges of a silhouetted Earth.
2007 March 17
Celestial and terrestrial lights are featured in this stunning image that includes the Moon in phases of the total lunar eclipse of March 3rd. In the foreground, the distinctively-shaped Eiffel Tower, over 300 meters tall, is a well-known tourist destination and one of the most visited buildings in the world. Of course the Moon is even more recognizable, but harder to visit. The last lunar tour was undertaken nearly 35 years ago, during the Apollo 17 mission.
2007 March 9
When a Full Moon lies near the ecliptic there can be a lunar eclipse. That cosmic alignment is well illustrated in this composite of eclipse images recorded last Saturday near Paris, France. The projection of the ecliptic plane, the plane of planet Earth's orbit around the Sun, is traced by the long blue line running diagonally through the picture. At a small angle to the ecliptic, along the Moon's orbit, are a series of images from the eclipse itself following the Moon as it moves (down and left) through Earth's shadow. A small blue circle centered on the ecliptic outlines the extent of the dark region of the shadow or umbra. Above, the principal stars of Leo are highlighted, while at the far right lies another celestial wanderer that stays close to the ecliptic - Saturn.
2007 March 8
This dramatic image features a dark red Moon during a total lunar eclipse -- celestial shadow play enjoyed by many denizens of planet Earth last Saturday. Recorded near Wildon, Austria, the picture is a composite of two exposures; a relatively short exposure to feature the lunar surface and a longer exposure to capture background stars in the constellation Leo. Completely immersed in Earth's cone-shaped shadow during the total eclipse phase, the lunar surface is still illuminated by sunlight, reddened and refracted into the dark shadow region by a dusty atmosphere. As a result, familiar details of the Moon's nearside are easy to pick out, including the smooth lunar mare and the large ray crater Tycho. In this telescopic view, the background stars are faint and most would be invisible to the naked eye.
2006 September 11
Last Thursday, part of our Moon turned dark. The cause, this time, was not a partial lunar phase -- the Moon was full -- but rather that part of the Moon went into Earth's shadow. The resulting partial lunar eclipse was visible from the eastern Atlantic Ocean through Europe, Africa, and Asia and into the western Pacific Ocean. The darkest part of the lunar eclipse, when part of the Moon was completely shielded from sunlight, lasted about 90 minutes. Pictured above, a partially eclipsed Moon is seen rising over an estate in Huddersfield, England. The above image was taken far away from the house in the foreground, as only this would allow it to appear as angularly small as the half-degree Moon far in the background. A setting twilight Sun lit the foreground. The next eclipse of the Moon will occur in March 2007.
2006 September 9
During September 7th's lunar eclipse, the Moon slid through the Earth's shadow. Extending into space, Earth's cone-shaped shadow has two distinct parts, the lighter, outer part or penumbra, and the darker, inner shadow called the umbra. For this eclipse, the lunar disk just grazed the shadow's dark inner umbra. As a result, only a small part of the Moon was noticeably eclipsed, but the performance still attracted the attention of Moon watchers along the Earth's night side. In this creative scene, eclipse enthusiasts have matched the curve of a hoop to the eclipsed portion of the Moon - demonstrating the apparent size and position of the lunar disk relative to the umbra and penumbra. Of course, it's only shadow play.
2004 November 3
During last week's lunar eclipse, our Moon appeared to disappear. As the Earth moved between the Moon and the Sun, the Earth's shadow fell on the moon, making it quite dark. In the above picture the Earth's rotation, multiple exposures, and digital enhancements are used to create a time-lapse effect that dramatizes how the Moon looked as it faded out and re-appeared during the three hour lunar eclipse. As the Earth's shadow engulfed the Moon, the lunar images became less and less bright, practically disappearing during totality. At this time, the Moon, which normally shines by reflecting direct sunlight, shone only by sunlight refracted through the Earth's atmosphere. The next total lunar eclipse won't be visible from Earth until 2007.
2004 October 30
Does this look familiar? Red and orange hues haunting the face of the Moon should remind you of the October 27th total lunar eclipse. Created from exposures taken at intervals of 8.5 minutes during the total eclipse phase, the midpoint of the eclipse corresponds to the central exposure. The play of light across the lunar surface nicely demonstrates that the Earth's shadow is not uniformly dark as it extends into space. In fact, lunar maria and montes are still visible in the dimmed, reddened sunlight scattered into the cone-shaped shadow region, or umbra, by the atmosphere. Still, while processing the pictures into this composite image, astronomer Sebastien Gauthier was reminded of another haunting orange face. Have a safe and happy Halloween!
2003 November 11
Happily, skies over Connelly's Springs, North Carolina, USA were not mostly cloudy, as forecast, on the evening of November 8. In fact they were mostly clear early on, allowing photographer David Cortner to record the evening's scheduled celestial entertainment, a total lunar eclipse. Cortner took telescopic pictures of the Moon every eight minutes as it entered partial eclipse around 6:30pm EST and progressed through the reddish total eclipse phase while rising higher in the sky. Near the end of the eclipse he also recorded a wide-angle view in a long exposure, bringing out the thickening clouds and a landscape silhouetted by still partially eclipsed moonlight. Later, the telescopic views were carefully combined along the Moon's trail through the wide-angle image to create this dramatic composite eclipse sequence.
2003 November 7
The Moon slides through the Earth's shadow this Saturday night / Sunday morning (November 8/9) giving skygazers in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and western Asia a chance to enjoy a total lunar eclipse. As lunar eclipses go, this will be a brief one though, with the total phase lasting only about 25 minutes. The orientation and relative size of the Earth's shadow and the Moon's trajectory are illustrated in this thoughtful animation showing the full Moon moving up from the lower right, entering the penumbra or outer portion of the shadow region, and then passing well below the center of the darker inner shadow region or umbra. The total eclipse phase begins at 1:06 Universal Time, November 9 (8:06pm EST Nov. 8) when the Moon is completely within the umbra. While the off-center passage guarantees a short total phase, it also makes it likely that this November's eclipsed Moon will be dramatically visible and colorful with a brighter rim along the southern edge.
2003 June 3
What's behind the Moon? Each month, our Moon passes in front of -- and outshines -- many an interesting star field. Exceptions occur during a new Moon and during a total eclipse. In the background of a new Moon is usually the Sun, an even brighter orb that even more easily outshines everything behind it, except during a total solar eclipse. Even the longest total solar eclipse lasts just a few minutes, while the Sun's corona still remains bright. During a total lunar eclipse, however, the full Moon dims and a majestic star field may present itself for an hour or more. Such was the case during the middle of last month, when a rare glimpse of an eclipsed Moon superposed in front of the disk of our home Milky Way Galaxy was captured. Although fully in the Earth's shadow, the eclipsed Moon is still the brightest object on the right. The above image was captured during sub-zero weather from the Teide 2003 expedition to Mirador del Pico Viejo, a mountain in the Canary Islands, Spain, off the northwest coast of Africa.
2003 May 21
When the Moon rose over San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge on May 15, both bridge and Moon were in already in Earth's shadow. Of course, the bridge is in the Earth's shadow nightly, while the Moon only has that opportunity about twice a year, during a lunar eclipse. And even though in western North America the total phase of the lunar eclipse began before moonrise, many in areas with clear skies came out to enjoy the spectacle. For this eclipse, skygazers reported a darker than normal, copper-colored Moon during totality. The dramatic color is evident in this multiple exposure of the reddened Moon rising, taken by astrophotographer Evad Damast. Damast viewed the eclipse from the Marin Headlands north and west of the famous bridge, looking back toward the bay and the city lights.
2003 May 15
No special filters - or even a telescope - are required to enjoy a leisurely lunar eclipse. In fact, watched from all over the night side of planet Earth, these regular celestial performances have entertained many casual skygazers. Still, this eye-catching picture of a lunar eclipse may look unfamiliar. To make it, astrophotographer Doug Murray set his camera on a tripod and locked the shutter open during the total lunar eclipse of January 2000. The resulting image records the trail of the Moon sliding through the night, steadily progressing toward the total eclipse phase as seen from Florida, USA. Haunting red hues of diminished moonlight, common during the total phase of a lunar eclipse, are evident at the far right, along the slimmer portion of the trail. At least part of tonight's lunar eclipse will be visible in clear night skies over the Americas, Europe, and Africa. The eclipse should last over three hours from start to finish, with about 53 minutes of totality.
2000 October 13
Tonight, Friday the 13th, October's big, bright, beautiful full Moon will be in the sky, rising as the sun sets. A time exposure of this evening's full Moon would show a brilliant circular arc or Moon trail tracing its celestial path. In fact, this single, four hour long exposure from the evening of January 20 shows a full Moon trailing through hazy skies above Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Of course, the picture also shows something you won't see tonight -- a total lunar eclipse. A lunar eclipse is caused when the full moon enters Earth's shadow and as the eclipsed Moon's light grows steadily fainter, the Moon trail becomes narrow and dim. The total eclipse phase, when the Moon passes completely within Earth's shadow, occurs near the middle of this Moon trail arc. But even during totality, the Moon trail is visible and noticeably red. Normally illuminated by sunlight which falls directly on its surface, during a total lunar eclipse the Moon is still illuminated by sunlight filtered and refracted through Earth's atmosphere. The refracted light lends the eclipsed Moon a dim and reddish appearance.
2000 January 25
Our Moon turned red last week. The reason was that during the night of January 20, a total lunar eclipse occurred. The above digitally superimposed photographs captured the Moon three times during this lunar eclipse, once just as the Moon entered the Earth's shadow, once when the Moon was near the middle of the shadow, and once just before the Moon exited. The red tint of the eclipsed Moon is created by sunlight first passing through the Earth's atmosphere, which preferentially scatters blue light (making the sky blue) but passes and refracts red light, before reflecting back off the Moon. Differing amounts of clouds and volcanic dust in the Earth's atmosphere make each lunar eclipse appear differently.
September 2, 1999
Undaunted by world wide anticipation of the August 11 total solar eclipse, the moon also performed a lunar eclipse just two weeks earlier, on July 28. Crossing the edge of Earth's shadow the moon was only partially eclipsed - but the spectacle could be seen by observers located across the Earth's night side. For example, this photo was taken in early morning hours shortly after the mid-point of the eclipse as seen from Cody, Wyoming, USA. Still illuminating the landscape and obscured by a wisp of cloud, the moon is setting behind Sheep Mountain, west of Cody. Enjoying the celestial display, astrophotographer Mack Frost reported fairly clear skies tinged with a little smoke from area grass fires.
January 10, 1997
Last September's total lunar eclipse disappointed many observers in the Eastern and Midwestern US who were cursed with cloudy skies. However, the Midcourse Space Experiment (MSX) satellite had a spectacular view from Earth orbit and SPIRIT III, an onboard imaging infrared telescope, was used to repeatedly image the moon during the eclipse. Above is one of the images taken during the 70 minute totality, the Moon completely immersed in the Earth's shadow. Infrared light has wavelengths longer than visible light - human's can not see it but feel it as heat. The bright spots correspond to the warm areas on the lunar surface, dark areas are cooler. The brightest spot below and left of center is the crater Tycho, the dark region at the upper right is the Mare Crisium. The series of SPIRIT III images allow the determination of cooling curves for geologically different areas, exploring the physical properties of the Moon's surface.
April 3, 1996
Tonight's full moon would normally washout the spectacle of Comet Hyakutake's lovely tail, even for those far from light polluted skies. Except that tonight comet observers are in luck - the dance of the planets calls for a total lunar eclipse! Lunar eclipses are caused when the Moon passes through the Earth's shadow. Although dimmed, the eclipsed Moon may not appear completely dark. Sunlight scattered into the Earth's shadow after passing around the planet's edge and through its dusty atmosphere can make the Moon take on dramatic shades of red during totality as demonstrated in the above photo of the November 1993 lunar eclipse. Tonight, totality begins at 6:26 p.m. EST and lasts about an hour and a half. Weather permitting, the eclipse will be visible for all those comet and moon watchers lucky enough to be on the Earth's nightside.