The Total Lunar Eclipse of Apr 4, 2015

at Fremont Peak State Park, CA

Kirk's Excellent Photos from the Trip, on Flickr

The 3rd in a series of 4 total lunar eclipses all visible from California, one for each eclipse "season" of the past year, promised yet another clear night sky. I invited Becky, Kirk, and Ann to join me, initially thinking we'd try the lunar graze of a 10.3 magnitude star with a very good profile, which happened during the deep partial phases. But, it would require going farther, to Bottcher's Gap, or Tassajara Zen Retreat (not really a place to camp), and what with the lack of recent volcanic activity, it promised to be a bright eclipse and hard to do faint star occultations.

A graze site location on Tassajara dirt road, deep in the Big Sur mountains, a mile or so from the Zen retreat.

       

 

And it would also mean less time for me to sleep and recover from my incredible 1800 mile drive/backpack/etc adventure to Utah, from which I'd just returned a day earlier after driving all night. So instead, I suggested we converge on Fremont Peak, and we could try for dramatic photos of the setting eclipsed moon amid the oak trees on the ridge, and also enjoy some fine eating together.

Ann - my perennial Chef's chief assistant cook on my Field Astro classes and other outings, volunteered to prepare a pasta and salad dinner for us, while I planned on doing a scrambled egg and pan-fried sourdough toast breakfast after the eclipse. Kirk did some calculations, and I did some more, and we confirmed that the low moon (only 21 degrees at the moment of Total Eclipse) from Astronomer's Row would be perfectly placed photogenically over the trees a few hundred yards to the west during Totality. Kirk arrived first. Ann and I had to pack her kitchen gear, camping gear, then head to Cabrillo Observatory for more astro gear, and only arrived after moonrise and just after sunset. We did stop on one of the curves up the mountain to admire the sun setting into the inversion layer and turning deep red. Becky arrived soon after, with husband Alex, and their energetic and adorable "forest elf" Ezra, whom I immensely enjoy pal'ing around with in the wilds over the past few years. He's just turned 4 and now talks up a storm, so we can have real conversations - wonderful!

It took some experimenting to find the best combo of ISO and shutter speed, given that the Losmandy computer decided to be non-functional so there was no tracking on the mount.

This is my best shot, during the 5 minutes of total eclipse. the NW rim is just barely inside the Earth's umbra, and still getting a lot of barely refracted light around the Earth's atmosphere.

   

The "diamond ring" effect just after the end of totality, captured with my 28-200mm zoom near maximum zoom, over an oak tree a few hundred yards away.

Before the eclipse, a police car sped up, checked out cars, and settled on a pair in a car in the parking lot across from us - and arrested them both. 15 minutes later, another squad car rolled up and confiscated a lot of "dope" (overheard) in the trunk. So, with that excitement, I decided I'd sleep right next to my gear, on the pavement near the picnic spot on "Coulter Row".

Late partial phases, as dawn approached. There's my sleeping bag on the right, and I'm behind the Losmandy tripod/mount with refractor, facing the moon now behind the oak tree here.

   

A teaching moment, as I chatted with Ezra about how great it was to eat COLORFUL vegetables and fruits, as I prepared tomatoes and avo's for our scrambled eggs creation.

I also bought 5 lbs of oranges in Watsonville on the drive over, planning to use many for making fresh hand-squeezed OJ to accompany our victory breakfast. Ezra was eager to help try to juice those oranges, but needs some more upper body workouts methinks.