Lunar eclipse observed from the mountainside above Gordon’s Bay

Monday the 28th of September 2015

The first question was where to go to get the best view if the weather was going to allow us any kind of view at all. Auke quickly determined that the best spot would be the parking area in front of the entrance to the Steenbras Water Filtration Plant on the mountainside above Gordon’s Bay.  The position at 290 m above sea level and 34° 10’29.17”S, 18° 50’51.96”E would give us a clear view across the waters of False Bay to where the Moon would set behind the mountains of the Southern section of the Cape Peninsula. So we had the place and now we began watching the weather anxiously. As we drew closer to the weekend the weather forecast became more and more favourable for that crucial period between Monday 02:00 and 07:00. Eventually it was almost certain that we would get a clear view of most of the eclipse so.

The most direct route for Lynnette and I would be the R300 and N2. Although the traffic reports said all was quiet along this route we were still concerned in view of the many incidents of stone throwing and other acts of violence, robbery and traffic disruption that had taken place on these two roads over the past months. We decided not to risk it and took a longer but safer route, arriving at the parking area shortly after 02:00. The weather was almost windless and beautifully clear but quite nippy. Next to arrive was Paul Kruger and shortly after him Wendy Vermeulen. Auke Slotegraaf and Johan Brink eventually arrived and, as we started setting were dismayed to see that there were clouds rolling in. They were ragged lot and we managed to get the start of the eclipse through the gaps and then, to our great relief the clouds dissipated leaving us with an unimpeded view of the eclipse.

Lynnette and I with Lorenzo. as you can see by our clothing it was pretty nippy up there. I had the Nikon D5100 attached to Lorenzo at prime focus.
Lynnette and I with Lorenzo. as you can see by our clothing it was pretty nippy up there. I had the Nikon D5100 attached to Lorenzo at prime focus.

I had the Nikon D5100 attached directly to Lorenzo the 10′ inch Dobby. so it was a question of push and shove all the way through the eclipse.  Lynnette operated the timer so that the photographs would be more or less evenly spaced, A couple of times during the course of the eclipse the wind freshened and then died down again and shortly after totality a bank of clouds and haze began to build up to the west over the Peninsula. It soon became clear that the last stages of the eclipse and the setting of the Moon were going to be lost in those clouds and the haze that was slowly climbing higher.

The centre photograph was take at maximum, well more or less. The others from the top left going around clockwise follow the eclipse till the clouds messed theings up and the photos became so hazy that they were not worth posting.
The centre photograph was take at maximum, well, more or less. The others from the top left going around clockwise follow the eclipse till the clouds messed things up and the photos became so hazy that they were not worth posting.

Despite the loss of the last bit of the eclipse and the actual setting of the Moon it was a very successful outing. We all got good photographs and shortly after sunrise we packed up and headed home. Getting home was not a quick drive, because we had to contend with the very heavy, Monday morning, peak hour traffic but eventually we made it and then it we could go to bed for some well earned rest.

Solar Eclipse – Monday the 13th of September 2015

Well there we were with ringside seats and a cloudy sky.  Thin high level clouds which would not have been too much of a problem and thicker, discount fast moving low level clouds moving in ahead of a cold front. It was the low level lot that were a problem because a gap would hardly have opened up when it was promptly closed up again. Despite the adverse conditions I did manage to get several photographs of the partially eclipsed sun.

These were the weather conditions one had to contend with while trying to photograph the eclipse.
These were the weather conditions one had to contend with while trying to photograph the eclipse.

I have put the time each photograph was taken in the caption so that one gets some idea of the progression of the eclipse.  All the photographs were taken with a Nikon D5100 camera mounted at prime focus on a Newtonian reflector (D=250), see ISO 400 and shutter speed = 0.25 seconds.

This was the first clear shot I got at 07:26:04.80
This was the first clear shot I got at 07:26:04.80
Here the sun just started peeping out behind the clouds at 07:32:49.00
Here the sun just started peeping out behind the clouds at 07:32:49.00
A little bit more of the sun showing at 07:39:10.60
A little bit more of the sun showing at 07:39:10.60 and the first sunspot appears
Here the sun was almost clear of the clouds at 07:44:11.80
Here the sun was almost clear of the clouds at 07:44:11.80 and we have a second sunspot
Almost no  clouds and it looked as if we might get quite a large gap at 07:50:21.90
Almost no clouds here and it looked as if we might get quite a large gap at 07:50:21.90 with two definite sunspots
Just a faint hint of clouds at 07:52:22.50
Just a faint hint of clouds at 07:52:22.50
Back the clouds came at 08:00:00.90
Back the clouds came at 08:00:00.90
This was pretty much the end of my eclipse section at 08:20:38.40
This was pretty much the end of my eclipse section at 08:20:38.40
By 09:11:07.40 the clouds opened up a large gap just to notify me that the eclipse was over before closing in again
By 09:11:07.40 the clouds opened up a large gap just to notify me that the eclipse was over before closing in again and one can now see five sunspots

 

A view of the Moon

A view of the Southern Hemisphere Moon

DSC_0006X_Maan_F-0_0-005s_ISO400
Taken with a Nikon D5100 mounted directly (no lens used) onto a 12″ Skywatcher Dobsonian telescope.
Location: Brackenfell, patient Western Cape, help South Africa
GPS: 33.811S, view 18.68E
Altitude: 75m
Date Shot: 09/11/2013
Time Shot: 20:57:27.80
Aperture: F0
Shutter Speed: 1/200s
Exposure Mode: Manual
Exposure Comp: 0EV
Metering: Center-Weighted
ISO: 400