A Particularly Dark Full Moon

Observing here from British Columbia, Canada, we had perfect weather for this lunar eclipse. My impression is that this was a considerably darker eclipse than the last one I saw back on October 27, 2004, that fateful night when the Red Sox won the World Series. It also seemed slightly less colorful to me, though impressions of color are pretty subjective. I’d describe the Moon at mid-eclipse as being a kind of muddy reddish brown hue transitioning to pale yellow where brightest.

This view of totality was shot at mid-eclipse on August 28, 2007, from British Columbia, Canada, using a home-built 8-inch f/4.2 Newtonian reflector. The brightest star in the picture is about 8th magnitude.
S&T: Gary Seronik
But again, the most noticeable factor was that it was a dark eclipse. To the naked eye, the dimmest limb of the Moon was difficult to make out, though in binoculars (and in the camera viewfinder) it never disappeared. Perhaps the best view though was in my 15×45 image-stabilized binoculars. Even though I’ve seen a few total lunar eclipses now, I never fail to be impressed by the sheer weirdness of seeing the full Moon floating in a field of stars. It's just plain strange.

Overall, it’s been a memorable event, though I’m glad I’ve got the pictures since by the time I get to bed and wake up again, it’ll all seem like a dream I’m sure.

Do you have pictures or impressions of this eclipse? Share your images in our Photo Gallery, or post a comment below.

P.S. The rest of this week makes for great observing too. Tomorrow the asteroid Vesta encounters Jupiter, and at week's end West Coasters will be treated to a possible outburst from the Aurigid meteor shower.

18 thoughts on “A Particularly Dark Full Moon

  1. Debra J, Williams

    The moon was very low in the sky just as it entered totality. Through my Astroscan, it appeared to have more of a three dimensional look than just observing it with the naked eye. It was a dark eclipse, bluish gray, but I did detect some coppery red. I have noticed over the years one of the most remakrable things about eclipses is how still and silent it is.

  2. grecodan

    I, too, noted the distinct dimensionality of the moon during totality. Through my 10×50 field glasses it looked like a painting, with a greyish center and deep orange toward the limbs. As totality neared the end, the western limb brightened, as if the painter were adding a wash of thin white over the orange. The faint background stars were lovely. Truly one of the most spectacular lunar eclipses I’ve ever seen.

  3. Chris Wells

    This was my first lunar eclipse. Hard to believe for most of you veteran star-gazers, I know. But it’s true. My eight year old son and I enjoyed watching this eclipse together from the porch swing. It was a strange sight as the shadow crept across the moon and we watched the muddy brown moon float eerily toward the western horizon. It took longer than I thought it would for the entire moon to be covered. I can’t wait for the next one!

  4. Daren

    I spent the morning from the backyard of my Utah home watching the beautiful lunar eclipse with my wife. I was impressed with the view in my 8” dob and 10×50 binoculars. The viewing was breathtaking even if we had to wait for the occasional cloud to pass. While we waited we caught glimpses of the Andromeda Galaxy high in the sky when viewing that early in the morning and the Orion Nebula rising in the east.

  5. Alan MacRobert

    A beautiful dawn partial eclipse, it was, from here in eastern Massachusetts. I tried to time first contact naked-eye, but a scattering of little clouds got in the way. The scene, however, was gorgeous — a spooky French romantic painting with the moonlit clouds and sky, dark August trees, and dark land.
    The part of the Moon in the umbra was easily visible naked-eye even before the umbra was 1/4 of the way across the Moon (5:11 a.m. EDT, Moon altitude 8 degrees, Sun altitude -10 degrees).
    Despite the brightening sky and the Moon getting lower and dimmer, the umbra was even more evident, glowing luminous orange-red, by the time the show ended. This happened when the Moon, still only partially eclipsed, disappeared behind a low cloud bank at 5:36 a.m. (Moon altitude 4 degrees, Sun altitude -5 degrees). A wonderful morning all told. –Alan MacRobert

  6. Brian

    This eclipse was very dark from my viewing spot in south-central Pennsylvania just west of Harrisburg. The weather here was good (no clouds), although the air temp was 70F and the dewpoint was 66F (85% relative humidity), so we were experiencing some ground fog in low-lying areas. Our viewing point was elevated on a hill, so the ground fog was not much of a problem for us. At 4:50 AM EDT, the moon was nice and bright, and we had good viewing as the moon began moving into the umbra, especially as the shadow crossed Tycho and Mare Crisium. The viewing remained good as the moon entered totality at 5:52 a.m. EDT. However, as the moon slipped into totality, we noticed how dark the area around Oceanus Procellarum, Mare Ibrium, Aristarchus, etc., had become. The moon was quite low on our horizon by this time, and the eclipsed moon continued to darken quickly. By 6:10 a.m. EDT, the moon had almost completely disappeared from view; we could only see a very faint hint of a crescent from the southeastern edge of the moon through my Orion XT4.5. We waited a bit to see if conditions might improve, but the moon was going to set shortly and it became was obvious that we had seen as much of this eclipse as we were going to see. A good early morning even though we missed seeing a coppery or red moon hanging in totality.

  7. Roland Dechesne

    From my acreage 55 km (~34 miles) southeast of downtown Calgary, Alberta, I too was impressed by the darkness of the eclipse. Even prior to totality starting, the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) was an easy unaided-eye target almost straight overhead. Elusive Triangulum Galaxy was glimpsed by me early on during totality, prior to the dawn’s encroaching glow. I usually have difficulty with M33 the even at dark star parties. According to my Sky Quality Meter, the skies at that time were averaged 21.33 mag/sq arcsec, better than the previous best skies I had recorded at my site. This reading reflects, in part, the recent passage of a large rainy cold front — but still it underscores just how dark this particular lunar eclipse was.

  8. Todd Hansen

    Observed this weeks Lunar Eclipse from the outskirts of the California desert town of Barstow. Was on the hill top which is the California Veterans Home with my friend Glenn Yokum who is a resident there. The skies were totally clear and dry with a very mild warm breeze from the west.

    Glenn and I both remarked how sharp and distinct the shadow edge was for this eclipse, observing naked eye and with 10 x 50 binoculars. At totality we both noted how difficult it was to make out features of the Lunar Mare. This was one of the darkest I have seen in nearly 40 years of observing, and would place it at a very nearly a “1” on the Danjon scale for darkness.

  9. Alan Silverstein

    Went to bed with overcast and rain. At 0230 MDT, thinning remnants, silvery, and mostly an unobscured view of the moon as it entered partial and total eclipse. I saw it as orange to brown, noticeably dark, relatively colorless (no red at all). Also noticed how bright/white the edge near the umbra was even after totality started; maybe a relative effect.

    Yes, very peaceful and slow. Warm enough to lay out on a driveway watching it from in town. Also noticed M31 naked-eye visible during totality. Fond memory of binocular view of the golden moon at mid-totality surrounded by at least five dim, nearby stars.

  10. Brian V. Staples

    From my front yard in San Diego, the sky was clear and still, the night air warm, and the Moon blazing brightly overhead. As the Moon slipped into the umbral shadow, I could see the disctinct knibbling away of the disk, until the Moon was fully immersed in the umbra. As reported elsewhere, it was a darker than usual Lunar eclipse. I personally noticed a lack of the distinctive reddish hue; rather this eclipse had a brownish smokey color to it, which in a way made it a more memorable event.

  11. Jeff Gortatowsky

    Gary observing here in Southern CA we had good weather, balmy temps. I observed in shorts and a t-shirt in my backyard. I was using my 16×70 Fujinons. I too felt the this was one of the darkest eclipses I’ve seen. I’ve seen a few over the past 35 or so years, and it was very pastel in tone. That of course could be because it was darker.

    I likened the color to a peach. And with the last moments before second contact, it looked like a peach to me.

  12. Ed Barrall

    I have been watching eclipses for 65 years (saw my first at 7). Reporting from Watsonville, CA here are some observations. This one was notable for the contrast between umbra (very dark) and penumbra (beautiful bright copper). The end of the eclipse was spectacular with the super white bright limb contrasting with the umbra and penumbra. At totality the moon all but vanished.

  13. David Knisely

    This eclipse was very nice, but I would hardly call it “dark”, as it was easily visible at all times to both the unaided eye and the telescope. Indeed, I would have to give it a Dajon 2.5 rating. Early on just after the partial umbral phase began, in my 100mm f/6 refractor, I could clearly see the darkened limb of the moon and a little detail within it only a few minutes after first contact. Detail in the shadowed portion became fairly easy to see in the early partial phase, and the reddish color began to become visible rather early as well. Normally, I have to wait until the shadow’s edge gets close to the middle of the disk to see that. The deep reddish orange hue was quite prominent as totality approached, and at the point of totality, the edge of the moon that was the last to fall under the umbra had a faint bluish cast to it for a short while. As that faded, the northern limb of the moon was somewhat brighter orange, but that faded as well. The western part showed some detail (I could follow Grimaldi all the way through totality), but some detail began to be somewhat harder to see in Oceanus Procellarum. At between 10:30 and 10:45 UT, the west-southwestern limb began to brighten noticeably, and the moon finally went into the trees across the street. Twilight was extinguishing the brighter stars and the moon was getting low, so I finally called it a night.

  14. Greg Bryant

    Given weather and other circumstances (not to mention a drought of total lunar eclipses relatively speaking from Sydney), this was my best lunar eclipse from Sydney since…either the early 90s or 1986 (Halley’s Comet).

    It was a little darker than I expected. Living on the northernmost outskirts of Sydney’s expansive suburbia, I enjoy good dark skies (for a suburb), so I was able to better appreciate the scene against a wider starry background. With Spring about to dawn here in Australia, I
    particularly enjoyed standing outside with the eclipsed moon in the background, a light-colored chimney in the foreground, a green-leaf “Christmas bush” tree on one side, and a yellow wattle tree in full bloom on the other side.

    I couldn’t help thinking, just before totality began, that the eclipsed Moon looked like an upclose Mars with polar icecap (what timing for the Mars Hoax e-mail!).

    Here on Foxtel (Australia’s cable/satellite TV network), they had the eclipse images live in the corner whilst they ran their normal 24hr news service. Public interest in the eclipse was incredible (more so than comet McNaught).

    Greg Bryant
    Sydney, Australia

  15. Liz

    Even the veteran and jaded star-watchers in our household joined our eclipse party and found much to comment on. For us, in Kansas, the eclipsed moon was still well up in the southwestern sky. The most amazing thing was how dark it became. Naked eye and binocular views of the Orion Nebula made believers of my children, especially as this event came so soon after an excellent evening they spent watching the Perseids from our farm northeast of Wichita. This was one of the best skies I have seen in a long time. Also amazing was how quickly the dark sky gave way to dawn. It was as if someone just “turned out the lights” on the stars! I’ll watch every eclipse I can, but I don’t think I’ll ever like one better than this one. Bravo!

  16. Pat

    I live at the edge of Carlsbad NM. From there the moon was very dark brown, darker than I’d seen before on a lunar eclipse. I was unable to get a picture with my digital camera (pics were all black), though I could see the moon through the viewfinder. Normally the moon is a copper color…

  17. Alison

    In New Brunswick, Canada, it was still pretty dark when I went out at 5:40, and the moon was beginning to show an odd little shadow at its top left. By the time I reached my nearby vantage point overlooking the Bay of Fundy, the sky was lightening & the shadow was bigger. All was silent on the cliff; the birds weren’t up yet. It was eerie, and beautiful, and I wondered if the people in the fishing boat offshore had noticed what was going on above them. The water was still enough for the moon to reflect a path across it. As the sky grew lighter, the shadow on the moon grew, but then dissolved into the blue-ing sky, so that the moon became a shrinking crescent. It passed in & out of shreds of cloud as it sank. For just a while the sky was a dreamy mauve-blue-faintly-pink colour. The moon was last visible as just the bottom crescent, like a faint smile as it disappeared into blue haze on the horizon.
    I have watched quite a few eclipses, but this was my first dawn one. It was pretty, and worth getting up for.

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