The total lunar eclipse on October 8, 2014, was a treat as seen under mostly clear skies from Weko Beach in Sawyer, MI. The Andrews University Astronomy Club promoted a public gathering along the shore of Lake Michigan, where I observed the eclipse through sunrise/moonset. Here are snippets and images from an early morning outing that had several small delights.
The wind was stiff and blowing directly onshore, with some sand blowing into shallow drifts across the parking lot. I set up a reflector telescope on an equatorial mount and binoculars on a firm tripod in the lee of my minivan for the duration. The sound of pounding surf added a cool element to the environment.
The first couple to show up after me included photographer Jon Gilchrist. His images are sometimes used by the South Bend Civic Theater, so I'm hoping eclipse images will appear in the upcoming production of Frankentstein.
Another group included a bunch of guys bundled up for the cold weather, but watching the spectacle from a convertible with the heater occasionally on. They stayed the whole time, moving the car once to get a better angle as the moon's altitude got lower. I thought the scene was humorous, for in my mind they could easily have been transported to a deer hunting blind, but here they were watching the eclipse slowly unfold.
The eclipse itself was very rewarding. Though some bright flagpole lights were distracting, the viewing was good. I could discern the penumbra before the obvious umbral shadow encroached onto the moon.
Frankly, the binocular view seemed easier than gazing through the scope, though both of them suffered jitters from the wind. When totality ended, the illuminated portion had a distinctly less-than-perfect-curve appearance.
Fortunately the eclipsed moon acted as a landmark for finding the planet Uranus nearby. Uranus was obvious through the optics, though it didn't photograph well with my simple point-and-shoot camera.
Once morning twilight started to brighten the sky, a few more people arrived. Several Andrews University students had to leave for classes, but they first glimpsed Jupiter and its moons through the telescope.
Some low clouds obscured the horizon briefly, and we were thinking that was the end of the viewing. I packed away my scope but kept the binocs set up just in case. Sure enough, the clouds passed and we had a few more minutes with the eclipsed moon.
As it sunk into Lake Michigan, the eclipsed portion of the sphere was downward and I could discern the upper half of the full moon. Since this eclipse was a selenelion, in which the moon and sun are concurrently above the horizon at some point, I was pleased to see the eclipsed moon in daylight. It provided a photo unlike most of the traditional "blood moon" scenes.
Lastly, as we were packing away our gear, someone told us that two deer had walked down the beach, and upon seeing the people the deer went into the lake. I was a little incredulous that deer would go for a swim in the white-capped water, but sure enough, I watched one of them exit the water well north of our observing area. The swimming deer video is by John Gilchrist.
Next up on the eclipse scene is the partial solar eclipse on October 23, 2014. It should be a good view overlooking Lake Michigan, and the Andrews University Astronomy Club will likely be on the scene at Weko Beach again. Remember, it's a solar eclipse, so proper eye protection is required when this eclipse begins for you're looking at the sun. Here's a video simulation, sans the glare.
As for the moon, the total lunar eclipse of Sept. 28, 2015, will fortunately be at more reasonable hours for us observers near the Great Lakes.