Syfy Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View
SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

The Blood Moon Eclipse of October 2014

By Phil Plait

There are approximately eleventy bazillion pictures of the recent lunar eclipse on the Web right now, but a few in particular struck me, and I love to share.

The first is from Teoh Hui Chieh (who took one of the most amazing videos of last year’s annular solar eclipse I’ve ever seen). For the lunar eclipse she was in New South Wales, Australia, and took this phenomenal shot of the eclipsed Moon over one of the dishes of the Australia Telescope Compact Array:

That’s the Moon above and to the right of the antenna. You don’t normally see the full Moon and Milky Way at the same time! The bright moonlight usually washes out the much fainter glow of our galaxy. But during the eclipse the Earth’s shadow diminished the Moon’s fierce glow, allowing this dramatic shot.

You can see more of her amazing work at her website, My Dark Sky.

Another amazing astrophotographer, Rogelio Bernal Andreo (and oh do I love his work) decided to go a different route. He took a short exposure of the Moon to get the light balance right, and then a deeper exposure to show the stars behind it. Compositing them created this lovely scene:

The arrow points to the planet Uranus, which hovers just around the edge of naked-eye visibility. Its bluish color is real, due to methane in its atmosphere that absorbs red light, letting blue light reflect back toward us.

Update, Oct. 9, 2014 at 19:00 UTC: According to David Cortner, who left a comment on Andreo's Facebook page, the two "stars" almost merged with Uranus are actually moons of that planet! The one to the lower left is Oberon, and to the upper right is a blend of Titania and Umbriel. I checked with some software and they do match. That's astonishing.

Run, do not walk, to his site, Deep Sky Colors, and set your brain for “stunned.”

Of course, hoaxes pervade the Internet. This one is making the rounds again, claiming it’s taken from the space station:

That’s actually a drawing, and a lovely one as well. But it’s not an actual picture taken from space. I wrote about this before; it’s by A4size-ska on DeviantArt. Click that to see the original; it’s really well done. But take it for what it is: a sensational piece of artwork, not a photo from space.

Finally, what did the Earth look like from space during the eclipse? The Suomi NPP Earth-observing satellite has a detector on it that can see very faint light on Earth. It passed over the U.S. every 90 minutes during the eclipse, imaging a broad swath of the planet as it did. Between orbits, different amounts of the Moon were in the Earth’s shadow, providing different amounts of illumination on our planet. Christopher Kyba put those observations together into this unusual portrait of Earth during the eclipse:

That’s really cool. I love looking at familiar sights in different ways, and this is an exemplar of that.

Lunar eclipses are amazing. If you want to see more pictures, try UniverseToday, where there’s a nice gallery.

Read more about: