Beautiful Golden Red Moon
During Total Lunar Eclipse
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The gorgeous view of the moon taken at about 10 PM of Monday, December 20, 2010 in New Jersey, USA.
It was about three and half hours before the start of the lunar eclipse. Subsequently, there was a total lunar
eclipse in the early hours from about 1:30 AM to about 5 AM on Tuesday, December 21, 2010. So, I stayed
up in the early hours to enjoy the fantastic celestial show and to take a few pictures until the total lunar
eclipse at about 2:40 AM.

I was using my compact super-zoom camera, Canon PowerShot SX30, with 35X optical zoom and 4X digital
zoom (with a total possible zoom of 140X). In this first picture, I zoomed beyond the 35X optical zoom in
order to see as much details as possible on the moon surface.
More partial eclipse.
Getting closer to the total eclipse
In this picture, the focus point of my camera probably was on the eclipsed, dark side of the moon such that
the brighter Crescent of the moon was over exposed. But the eclipsed side of the moon looks reddish orange
in color.

A band of turquoise-blue edge to Earth's shadow set against the reddened moon on this picture and the next
picture was indescribably beautiful! The source of the turquoise is ozone in earth's upper atmosphere.
Atmospheric scientist Richard Keen of the University of Colorado explains: "During a lunar eclipse, most of the
light illuminating the moon passes through the stratosphere where it is reddened by scattering. However, light
passing through the upper stratosphere penetrates the ozone layer, which absorbs red light and actually
makes the passing light ray bluer." This can be seen, he says, as a soft blue fringe around the red core of
Earth's shadow. More information on the beautiful colors of lunar eclipse is available in a
NASA Science article.
This is at the beginning of the partial eclipse at about 1:32 AM on Tuesday, December 21, 2010.

This lunar total eclipse is a very special event in the sense that it is the last Lunar Eclipse, the last Full Moon
and the last Winter Solstice (
冬至 ) of the First Decade of 21st Century! And it coincides with the winter
solstice for the first time since 1638.


A stunning sight! A perfect Christmas Gift from Mother Nature! At total eclipse at about 2:40 AM, the moon
light was much dimmer, but was still visible with vibrant lovely golden-red color .

Why is it red? This is due to several effects of Earth's atmosphere on different parts of color spectrum of
sunlight as explained in the following and in the paragraph above on turquoise-blue edge:

During a total lunar eclipse, the Sun, Earth, and Earth's moon line up in space and moon passes deep inside
the shadow of earth.

If the earth had no atmosphere to diffract the sunlight, the moon under total eclipse would be totally dark and

According to NASA, the red color portion of sunlight with longer wavelength is able to pass through the
Earth's atmosphere and cast a glow of vibrant lovely red color on the moon through diffraction effect of
earth's atmosphere. On the other hand, the earth atmosphere filters out (or scatters away) blue light, leaving
red and orange colors glowing on the moon. More detailed explanation is available at:


During a total lunar eclipse, if an astronaut stands on the moon and looks back to the earth, the rim of the
earth is on fire as viewed from the moon! As the astronaut scans his/her eyes around Earth's circumference,
the light the astronaut is  seeing is the light of all the sunrises and sunsets of the Earth at the same time!. It is
one of the most poetic of astronomical events. This incredible light beams diffracted by earth's atmosphere
into the heart of Earth's shadow, filling it with a golden glow and transforming the Moon into vibrant lovely
golden-red color.

Challenges in Photographing This Series of Pictures:

The outside temperature on that night was very cold, about 22 degrees Fahrenheit. It was so cold that I could
not stay outside for hours. Instead, I went outside for only a few minutes to take a few shots, then came
inside the house with my camera. I was out and in several times to take this sequence of pictures until the
total eclipse.

Taking this series of eclipse pictures was quite challenging because the moon was almost straight up
overhead on the night sky.

I tried my monopod and tripod in taking this series of eclipse pictures. I ended up using my monopod most of
the times because I have been using my monopod for several years and have become very familiar with using
the monopod with the super-zoom camera.

I felt it was very awkward to use the tripod with the super-zoom camera out at night in the dark. I was also
wearing a pair of globes because of the low temperature. The glove makes it even harder to take good
pictures at night in the dark, especially when the camera was pointing almost straight up. As is well known
that aiming the camera is not easy when the super-zoom is zoomed beyond 35X and may be up to 140X. The
image is very sensitive to any tiny movement of the camera and is often out of the frame and disappears
entirely. When I tried to adjust the aiming of the camera in the dark to point at the moon, I often touched or
pressed the wrong button(s) on the camera accidentally causing all kinds of problems because the camera
was not in the regular familiar position, but was pointing almost straight up.

It was much easier for me to sit down on a chair and to use my familiar monopod to help me to aim the super-
zoomed camera accurately and steadily at the moon.

At such low light condition, it was quite a challenge to focus the camera well to get a good picture of the
moon in total eclipse. For this entire series of lunar eclipse photos, I set my camera on Programmed Auto
Mode (P-Mode) for the camera to set all the parameters (including aperture size, shutter speed, ISO, etc.)
automatically for me. My duty was to aim the camera well and to focus well to get such pictures. Due to the
low light on the totally eclipsed moon, the camera kicked the ISO up to 800 resulting in the grainy picture from
the compact camera with relatively small photo image sensor.
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More partial eclipse.

Several photography friends in other parts of USA regretted that they did not have the opportunity to take
pictures of this special total lunar eclipse because it was cloudy or raining or snowing in their areas. I am
lucky to have this golden opportunity in New Jersey with clear sky to enjoy the show and to take this series of
pictures of total lunar eclipse.
This is the picture of the Super Moon that I took on the night of March 19, 2011 at 7:24 PM. It is called Super
Moon because the moon is at its closest distance to earth.

By comparing this picture of Super Moon to that taken at 10 PM on December 20, 2010 just before the lunar
Eclipse, we see the following differences:

1.        The one taken on December 20, 2010 looks like a black and White picture whereas the one taken on
March 19, 2011 is more brownish in color. This probably is due to the big difference in the positions of the
moon in the sky. On December 20, 2010 near lunar eclipse time, the moon was almost straight up overhead in
the sky. On the other hand, on March 19, 2011 at 7:24 PM, the moon was very low in sky close to the
horizon. As we know, when sun and moon are at low angle, their lights go through longer distance in earth
atmosphere so that sun light at sunset time or sunrise time are in golden color.
2.        The portions of the moon surface facing us on these two dates differ substantially.

The photos of the totally eclipsed super moon on September 27, 2015 (
中秋夜 加上 超級月亮 再加上
全蝕 的 金紅月亮)
are on my web page at:

讀萬卷書    行萬里路

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