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Astro Bob: Chasing Tuesday's colorful total lunar eclipse

Some got to stay put to see the eclipse. Others had to travel. I share my impressions and seek yours.

Totality and then some
These were my three favorite phases of Tuesday morning's (Nov. 8) eclipse — from left, a few minutes before totality, during total eclipse and just after totality. Sunlight illuminates a bright sliver of the moon before and after, while during totality, no direct sunlight strikes the moon, only reddened light refracted by Earth's atmosphere.
Contributed / Bob King
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It's so much easier when eclipses are delivered on a silver platter right to your door. But I'm so glad I made the 2 1/2 hour drive to witness this last total eclipse until 2025. I hope you got to see it as well, hopefully without having to drive.

My location was overcast, but cloud maps and forecasts indicated a clearing would open in north-central Wisconsin on Monday night, Nov 7. Amazingly, the meteorologists nailed it. I picked the town of Chetek, Wisconsin, as my destination and used the satellite view on Google Maps to puzzle out a safe, out-of-the-way place to watch the eclipse. That turned out to be a public boat landing on the Red Cedar River just a couple miles off the main road.

I studied Google's street-view images so closely before arriving that when I got there I recognized landmarks even in darkness — as if I'd come this way many times before.

Total lunar eclipse wide
Stars fill this sky in this wide-angle time-exposure of the totally eclipsed moon made on Nov. 8 around 4:20 a.m. CST. Clouds add their own beauty to the scene.
Contributed / Bob King

The sky stayed mostly clear until shortly after totality, when the valiant moon finally succumbed to approaching clouds. Certain things about an eclipse stick with you. Like the change from a fully moonlit landscape where you can see your shadow to feeling as if a cover were pulled over your head. For me this transition happened more quickly than I had anticipated despite taking 68 minutes by the clock.

Penumbral eclipse
The Earth's outer shadow (penumbra) "smudges" the upper left side of the moon about 14 minutes before the start of partial eclipse.
Contributed / Bob King

Orion was my guide, as he is on so many nights. Diminished by moonlight, the hunter was little but bare bones. But as time slipped by until only a silver sliver rimmed the reddened moon, he produced a club, shield, sword and even flaunted a cloak made of stars, the Milky Way.

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Totality colors
Time exposures often saturate colors that appear more delicate to the naked eye. This photo I during totality is a good example. The left side of the moon appears redder and darker because it's closer to the center of Earth's shadow. The right side is paler because it lies closer to the shadow's edge.
Contributed / Bob King

Cameras often intensify colors of astronomical subjects because they accumulate light rather than see things in real-time as the human eye does. The images included here come close, but the real colors were soft and muted. I first noticed a faint orange shading when about half the moon had passed into Earth shadow. Shortly before and after totality, the little bit of sunlit moon shone brightly along the edge of a smoky, brownish-orange globe.

During the first about 15 minutes of total eclipse, the west-facing lunar edge glowed pale yellow, with the rest of the disk a dim, rusty, reddish brown. On the 5-point Danjon scale (0 = very dark eclipse; 4 = bright eclipse) I gave it a "2," meaning that the eclipse was neither particularly dark nor bright. What was your impression?

The moon appeared much fainter to my eye at mid-eclipse, when it passed deepest into Earth's shadow, and then gradually brightened as it ambled to the other side of the umbra. I especially enjoyed watching the brighter rim, the part of the moon closest to the shadow's outer edge, "roll" from right to left along the lunar circumference during the 86-minute-long totality.

Moon and stars
I overexposed the totally-eclipsed moon (8 seconds exposure at f/3.5, ISO 1600) to better show how many stars are visible in the same view. The scene resembles what you see in binoculars.
Contributed / Bob King

Watching the moon's top (east-facing edge) re-emerge into sunlight at totality's conclusion was a stunner. As the light returned, you could actually see the moon move in real time with just your eyes. For a brief minute or two, its circumference resembled a ring, topped with a white sapphire of returning sunlight. Incredible. Fifteen minutes later, clouds swallowed up the remaining show. Such is life.

Eclipsed moon and Pleiades
The fully-eclipsed moon hangs below the Pleiades (Seven Sisters) star cluster in the western sky shortly before dawn on Nov. 8, 2022.
Contributed / Bob King

Was it just me or did the moon appear small during the total eclipse? It didn't physically change of course, but losing all that sunlight made it look puny compared to normal full moons. Please share your impressions and photos on my Facebook page Astro Bob's Astronomy for Everyone . We'd love to hear from you.

Read more from Astro Bob
The Red Planet is only 50.6 million miles away — almost walking distance! It won't get this close again until May 2031.

Related Topics: SCIENCE AND NATURE
"Astro" Bob King is a freelance writer and retired photographer for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at nightsky55@gmail.com.
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