Last night was a rare treat for star (and planet) gazers! The ‘September Supermoon’, plus the added bonus of a total lunar eclipse. The weather was just perfect here at Le Chant d’Oiseau, so we took advantage and stayed up really late! In fact, we barely got to bed!
A little explanation: a ‘supermoon’ occurs when the moon, in her orbit around the earth passes at its closest point to us. It appears in the sky slightly larger and very much brighter. The eclipse happens when the sun, the earth and the moon are in perfect alignment, the sun casting the earth’s shadow across the face of the moon. The two do happen separately fairly often, but for them to happen together is pretty rare iIndeed, and it’ll be another 18 years before it happens again!
We watched TV for an hour or so before we wrapped up in warm clothing. Even though the weather has been sunny and warm during the daytime, we knew that the clear skies would bring a chill. The telescope was already out and in situ, along with the DSLR on the tripod, having set them up earlier in the evening, before the light of day faded. We stepped outside, walked across the courtyard and, looking up, we were treated to a celestial smorgasbord. The moon was just as perfect as ever to begin our evening’s skywatching session, turning into a menacing red ember by the end of the night. We followed the trails of the satellites as they zoomed across the sky, reflected by the light of the setting sun, far away, as it fell into the southern hemisphere.
A long exposure image of ‘The Plough’ revealed other stars around that quite simply couldn’t be seen with the naked eye at this point, the moon was so bright!
We zoomed in on Orion later on, and the nebula in particular. Even in black and white through the telescope, it was an awe-inspiring sight. This is where stars are ‘born’, and through the ‘scope looks like a shimmering smoke screen with bursts of brilliant light emitting from within. One of these days I will treat myself to a camera specially for the telescope, and share some of these celestial wonders with you! In the meantime, you’ll have to settle for a timed exposure image of the constellation, rather than the nebula. It’s fascinating to see just how fast we’re spinning, as we record the star ‘trails’ as they cross the viewfinder in such a short time.
Even though we were constantly watching the moon, and getting the telescope back on station, we had a mess around with time-lapse on the Canon DSLR, showing some star trails, and Team Le Chant (yes, there’s really just the two of us), creeping up on the camera!
As the evening progressed, we saw the light dim, and the moon shadows fade as the sun, earth and the moon aligned. It was just stunning to compare how, just a short time earlier, we were walking by the light of the moon around the place – no other light source was on, and now it was almost pitch dark, and we could see the stars, the constellations where previously, due to the brightness, we were lucky to pick out the major constellations. Now, the heavens were being revealed in all their magnificent splendour. The Milky Way strode across the night sky, there were a few fleeting, but oh-so-bright shooting stars and we reluctantly turned our attentions back to la lune.
We were treated to a moon drenched in a blood red veil, obscuring the finer details of the lunar surface – even through the powerful 8″ reflector.
At a little after 6am, we called it a night, and retreated to the warmth of the farmhouse, amazed that we’d seen such a memorable celestial event, and happy that we’d been able to capture the moment on camera. These images simply don’t do the night justice, and to really, truly appreciate the tremendous dark skies we have here, I’ve promised myself better eyepieces for the telescope, and to work on my camera techniques, in order to better capture the beauty that’s all too evident above us, when we’re able to witness events such as this, but which we rarely take the time to appreciate.
Until the next time, au revoir…..and do remember to look up from time to time, you now have an idea of what you’re missing!