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Moon at Mid-Totality
Moon at Mid-Totality
The Moon took on a deep red color during the longest total eclipse of the next 1,000 years.
Total Lunar Eclipse of 2000 July 16 (Lahaina, Maui)
Vixen 90mm Fluorite Refractor, FL=810mm, f/9, AP 2x Barlow; 30 sec, Fuji Superia 800
(click to see larger image)

Total Lunar Eclipse of 2000 July 16

A Report with Photographs

©2000 by Fred Espenak. All rights reserved.

A total lunar eclipse is a celestial event of great beauty. But unlike a total solar eclipse which can only be seen from a very tiny fraction of Earth's surface, a total lunar eclipse is visible to the entire night side of Earth. Few people have witnessed a total solar eclipse, but many have seen its lunar counterpart. Since each lunar eclipse is visible from essentially half of the planet, few people would trouble themselves to travel far to see one.

Indeed, I have never traveled more than 100 miles myself to see a lunar eclipse, but the eclipse of 2000 July 16 was special for a number of reasons. For one thing, it was one of three eclipses occurring during the calendar month of July 2000:

Such an occurrence is quite rare. The last time three eclipses (two solar and one lunar) happened in one month was back in December 1880. It will not happen again until December 2206, followed by January 2261 and November 2281.

The July 16 eclipse was also the second total lunar eclipse of the year. I observed the previous one of 2000 January 21 from my home in Maryland, but I've never seen two total lunar eclipses in a single year. July's eclipse was also a record breaker in terms of its duration. Totality lasted an incredible 1 hour and 47 minutes. This is within seconds of the theoretical maximum duration. A total eclipse hasn't lasted this long since 1859 and it will not be equaled again for over a thousand years! The duration was so extraordinarily long because the Moon passed almost exactly through the center of Earth's umbral shadow. In addition, the Moon was near apogee so that its orbital motion was at a minimum which prolonged its passage through the umbra. This diagram shows the geometry of the Moon's path through Earth's shadows as well as the times of each phase of the eclipse. For more details about this event, see the NASA web site Total Lunar Eclipse: 2000 July 16.

Finally, the July 16 eclipse was a member of the same Saros family which produced the great lunar eclipse of 1982 July 06 . I watched that eclipse from the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay and I can still remember the image of the summer Milky Way and blood red Moon reflected in the bay. I dearly wanted to see the next member of the Saros!

Total Lunar Eclipse Sequence
Total Lunar Eclipse Sequence
The entire eclipse is seen in a nine image composite prepared with Adobe Photoshop.
Total Lunar Eclipse of 2000 July 16 (Lahaina, Maui)
Vixen 90mm Fluorite Refractor, FL=810mm, f/9, AP 2x Barlow
1/125 to 1/8 on Kodak Royal Gold 100 (partial phases); 4 to 15 sec on Fuji Superia 800 (totality)
(click to see larger image)

Although the eclipse was not be visible from the eastern USA, it was well placed for observers in Hawaii. What a fine opportunity/excuse to visit the 50th state!

For all the above reasons, I couldn't resist the temptation to see the total lunar eclipse of July 16 from Hawaii, followed two weeks later by the partial solar eclipse of July 30 from the western USA. As if that weren't enough, I stopped in LA to attend a wedding on the way to Hawaii. After the eclipse, I stopped in LA again on my way home to present a talk on eclipses at the Astronomical League's ASTROCON 2000 convention. This was a very busy trip!

Pat Totten and I spent a week and a half in Hawaii where we divided our time between the Big Island, Maui and Kauai. We had some great adventures including a helicopter flight over an active volcano, a 20 mile bicycle ride at sunrise down the extinct volcano Haleakala, snorkling, sailing, swimming and a wonderful hike to a secluded beach along Kauai's Napali Coast. Of course, the highlight and focus of the trip was the lunar eclipse.

I arranged our itinerary so that we would be on Maui for the eclipse. This would give us enough time to get over jet lag and to pick out a suitable observing site. After agonizing over the highly variable weather and a number of possible observing sites, we ended up observing and photographing the event from the 8th floor balcony of our hotel just north of Lahaina (northwest Maui). This was a good choice since it allowed us the chance to set up our equipment in our hotel room and to get several hours of sleep before the eclipse began (about 2 AM local time). The balcony or lanai also offered shelter to my telescope since we had some showers early in the evening. I was quite nervous about the weather, but since I knew of no better sky conditions elsewhere, we stayed put at our hotel.

Espenak and Telescope
Preparing for the Eclipse
Fred Espenak prepares for the eclipse from lanai of his hotel room in Lahaina, Maui.

The lanai had a great western/ocean-front exposure offering us a comfortable seat for the entire show. I can't imagine a more convenient arrangement than viewing the eclipse from this location. Two days earlier, I took some compass bearings to ensure that the entire eclipse would be visible from the lanai. I also checked the Moon's position the evening before the eclipse just to be safe.

My alarm rang at 12:30 AM on Eclipse Day, but I was already awake with "eclipse fever!" There were still some scattered clouds around, but the conditions were much improved from three hours earlier. After making some final adjustments in the polar alignment of my telescope, I waited for the eclipse to begin.

The first shading of the penumbra was clearly visible by 01:30 AM. For the next four hours, I busily shot photographs every several minutes in order to produce an entire sequence of the event. My telescope consisted of a 90mm Vixen fluorite refractor (f/8, fl=810mm) plus an AstroPhysics 2x Barlow to give an effective focal length of about 1600mm. I also shot a continuous sequence of photographs with a Nikon 8008 set in multiple exposure mode so that all phases of the eclipse would be recorded on the same piece of film.

Total Eclipse Trio
Total Eclipse Trio
The beginning, middle and end of totality are seen
in a compelling composite produced using Adobe Photoshop.
Total Lunar Eclipse of 2000 July 16 (Lahaina, Maui)
Vixen 90mm Fluorite Refractor, FL=810mm, f/9, AP 2x Barlow; 4 to 30 sec, Fuji Superia 800
(click to see larger image)

Pat photographed the eclipse with a Sigma 400mm plus 1.7x converter. She also used a Nikon FE in multiple exposure mode to capture the entire eclipse in one frame.

As the partial phases progressed, I could begin to make out the dark limb within the umbra. We were still troubled by an occasional cloud, but it never obscurred the Moon for more than a minute. When totality began, I marveled at the dramatic range of colors visible. The western Moon near the umbra's edge was a bright yellow-orange. The color shifted to a dark red along the Moon's eastern edge which was deepest in the shadow. During the next hour, the Moon moved ever deeper into Earth's dark umbral shadow. At maximum eclipse (03:55 AM local time), the Moon's color was now a rather dark reddish brown. I would estimate that its Danjon value was about 1.5 to 2.0 at mid-totality. However, it brightened up to perhaps 2.5 at the beginning and end of the total phase. At one point, a small dark cloud crept across the totally eclipsed Moon and it vanished from sight! Fortunately, the cloud only obscurred the view for about a minute.

Total Lunar Eclipse Sequence
Total Lunar Eclipse Over Maui
A Nikon 8008 was used in multiple exposure mode to capture the entire eclipse
on one frame of film. A second exposure captures morning twilight.
Total Lunar Eclipse of 2000 July 16 (Lahaina, Maui)
Nikon 8008, Nikkor 35mm f/5.6; 1/125 to 1/8 on Kodak Royal Gold 100 (partial phases), 4 seconds (totality)
(click to see larger image)

The view after totality was stunning. The naked eye view of the bright white crescent and red Moon resembled color photos of Mars with its polar cap. We continued to watched and photograph the spectacle as the Moon slowly exited the shadow. During the final partial phases, the Moon set behind clouds over the neighboring island of Lanai as the sky grew light.

We savored the images and experiences of the long night as we headed down to breakfast in the hotel. What a way to view an eclipse! Conditions wouldn't be nearly as comfortable or as favorable two weeks later during the partial solar eclipse of July 30.

Espenak & Totten
Another TOTAL Success!
Fred Espenak and Pat Totten celibrate another eclipse together!
Total Lunar Eclipse of 2000 July 16 (Lahaina, Maui)

Lunar Eclipse Photographs

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Copyright Notice

All photographs, text and web pages are © Copyright 2007 by Fred Espenak, unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved. They may not be reproduced, published, copied or transmitted in any form, including electronically on the Internet or WWW, without written permission of the author. The photos have been digitally watermarked.

The photographs may be licensed for commercial, editorial, and educational use. Contact Espenak (at MrEclipse) for photo use in print, web, video, CD and all other media.

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Last revised: 2007 Dec 31