Photo Trip #1: The Oct 27 Total Eclipse of the Moon

Last update: Wed Oct 27 2:20pm

Post-Trip highlights of our Pleasure Point Trip

I did a reconnaisance of all possible places to view the eclipse with a crashing surf foreground from Light House point north. No luck. Not a single spot that I like. Each of the places where the coast line was oriented right, there was a steep cliff which prevented any visibility of the surf. That includes Wilder Ranch coast trail, the trailer park next to Long Marine lab (the lab itself is off limits to our class; insurance liability). Tuesday afternoon I drove along East Cliff and found a spot I really like. Pleasure Point, in the little micro-park across the street from the tiny Elizabeth market at the foot of 30th Avenue. From here, the moon rises well out over one of the prime surf spots in the state, over the distant mountains. There's no streetlights within our camera angles. There's enough parking along the streets in this area to accomodate the class, and there are picnic tables at the overlook so we can have plenty of space for our stuff. It's now my prime spot. It's time to make a firm decision, so .... Astro 9 will be meeting at 5:30 pm at the foot of 30th Ave and East Cliff, on the bluff where the surfers head down to the waves at Pleasure Point. Look for my purple RAV4. Bring your cameras, and I'll bring the tripods, binoculars, 8" Meade, GM8 and Orion ShortTube. Bring color, not black/white film!

The ClearSkyClock for Cabrillo shows clear skies beginning at 4pm tomorrow, and clear all evening. All other ClearSkyClocks in the Bay Area show a similar pattern (which says to me that their predictions do not factor in that clouds hang around later after a storm front along the ridges and mountains).

Backup sites below will not be used except for some disasterous last SECOND decision, like pouring rain at Pleasure points and clear skies over the mountains... NOT likely!!!

As backup - In the unlikely case of low ground fog along the coast, then Gray Whale Ranch Meadow (1.a.on the dark sky list), 3 miles past the turn into the upper campus and beyond the little community of Cave Gulch is still our most likely site. The elevation here is 1100 feet and we have a fairly dark eastern direction. There's not much parking and there may be other cars trying to be here too, so arrive early and carpool. We'll want to drag our scopes a distance away from the road and oncoming headlights. As always, look for my purple Toyota RAV4 with the Yakima bike rack on the roof.

As the back up's back up - If a deeper marine layer fog layer is an issue, then we'll reconsider; maybe up to Mt. Bache Road above Old San Jose Road. Check back on this (but I don't think this will be a problem)

Schedule (Pacific Daylight Time)

6:14pm - Moonrise/Sunset

6:14pm - Umbral Eclipse begins

7:23pm - Total Eclipse begins; alt=13.5 deg, sun -13 deg

8:04pm - mid eclipse; alt=21 deg. Plieades 10deg altitude

8:44pm - Total Eclipse ends; alt=29.5 deg

9:43pm - Umbral Eclipse ends

What to Expect

We meet at 5:45pm. The refracted moon will rise at 6:14pm. This is also the moment that the partial eclipse begins. The moon will show a dusky darkening towards the lower side as it clears the horizon. The moon will be 3 1/2 degrees above the horizon by 6:30pm and telephoto shots with the horizon should be nice in the twilight. The total eclipse begins at 7:23pm, when the moon is 13.5 degrees above the horizon and the sun is 13 degrees down. This is very deep twilight; almost completely dark. Only by looking towards the west will you be able to tell that twilight is not over and the sky is not completely dark. Mid eclipse is at 8:04pm. This is the time when the moon will be deepest into the earth's shadow. There have been no significant volcanic eruptions this year, and I expect a fairly bright totality; coppery orange, with some bright bluishness around the rim, and a deeper red at the center of the shadow. The center of the shadow at this time will be at the southern edge of the moon, so there should be a continual gradation in light from one edge of the moon to the other. The total eclipse lasts 1hr 21m, until 8:44pm, when the moon is 29 degrees up. The Plieades star cluster will be 25 degrees away to the northeast, 17 degrees above the horizon. The Hyades and Aldebaren will be 5 degrees up, 27 degrees away. A 50mm lens should be able to get all of them, and a 35mm wide angle lens will get the whole scene and the horizon trees.

I'll bring along the GM8 mount, the tripods, and also an 8" Meade and the 6" RFT Meade. Shahram should be along and have his scope too. And of course the big binoculars will give the best and most dramatic visual views. I plan to mount the 6" RFT scope onto the GM8 so we can get guided time exposures at a good telephoto scale. The 6" has a focal length of 30" = 760mm. This will give a moon size of about 6mm on the film, or ~1/6 of the diagonal on a 35mm frame. You should have a plan so that you can make good use of your time. While the best part of the eclipse lasts for a couple of hours, that time goes quickly when you're unprepared.


Eclipses are beautiful.... but not in black and white!! Forget your B&W film and buy color. The colors of the eclipse will change and cover a wide spectral range, so film choice isn't critical. And don't go with super fast film - it's too grainy. You'll have plenty of photons to work with. I'd say a good ASA 100 or 200 Ektachrome or Kodak color print film will be just fine. During totality, you'll probably be shooting for times up to 20 seconds if the moon is large on your film, and maybe up to a few minutes at mid totality for wide angle pictures, to get some good stars and foreground silhouettes. Bracket your pictures and plan on shooting a whole roll so you can have them developed right away.

Here's some good links to decide on your exposures and make your plan...

Espenak's photo guide
Bill Kramer's page

CalPhoto page

Starry Skies lunar eclipse photo page

A page I've tossed together

Here's a cool link to some Windows astrophotography calculators from Michael Covington.