Lightning and a Lunar Eclipse: 10th December 2011


Lightning and a Lunar Eclipse: 10th December 2011

We just had an eclipse in July, but the next one is not till 2014 so I wanted to make the most of this one. A number of looming deadlines made the weekend away for astrophotography hard to fit in and unlike the eclipse in July (winter!), the weather for this eclipse was definitely not cooperating either. Still, I guess you could say we got lucky and it just about worked out ok.

End of total phase of lunar eclipse


The night started with a bang. Actually several bangs. We had one thunderstorm and downpour of rain early in the afternoon and after it got dark, we got peppered with more thunder and lightning and more rain. All of this made setting up gear quite tricky!


This shot was taken inside the car, with the windscreen wipers on - that's a trick I'm going to try again! While the clouds were solid throughout the total phase of the eclipse, the first break in the clouds passed over the moon just as totality was ending. The image at the top turned out better than anything I thought I was going to be able to get for much of the night! The three images below show the partial phases progressing over just twenty minutes or so through gaps in the cloud, before the solid cloud returned. The telescope was tracking on an equatorial mount (EQ6) for all these images with the 5DmkII.

Takahashi FS-102 and Canon 5DmkII
Partial Phase of Lunar Eclipse


Partial Phase of Lunar Eclipse

After packing up the main scope, I managed to catch one more image with a Pentax telephoto lens on a the Canon 1100D, just on a tripod (no tracking).


Lunar eclipse through clouds Pentax 300mm f4 ED IF lens and Canon 1100D (Rebel T3)

I also setup some timelapse gear to record the motion of the clouds and changing light. This video gives you a feel for the change in light during the eclipse and also how comprehensively clouded out we were until the late stages of the eclipse. There was a lot going on behind the clouds we never saw!

So I'll be noting this night down as a new personal achievement.. I've never photographed lightning and a lunar eclipse on the same night before! But now I'll be putting my telescope away for six months and looking forward to my travels in the Yukon in Canada to photograph the Aurora Borealis starting 20th January 2012, then Karen and I will make our return visit to Scotland to visit our friends which is long overdue! If you'd like tips on what's up in the sky at night to shoot with your DSLR, sign up to my free monthly newsletter!


Hi Phil,
I thought that was you I could see from across the field, once again Phil you have proved yourself as the photographer you are, you know your equipment you know what you have to do to get the right picture, timing!

I honestly didn't think there was going to be much of the Luna eclipse to be seen, well done dear sir.

I am very envious of your trip north, I'd love to see the Aurora in real time right above my head, take good pictures Phil and and I bet you can't wait to record some time elapse of the Aurora as well, I can't wait see those results...

Have a good trip safe.


Hi Phil

It was great to meet you a few weekends ago in LMDAS, thanks of insight and for the business card.

Also thanks for the photos, we went back to Melbourne that afternoon, and it was very rainy when we arrives, so I could not see the eclipse, at least I can see the photos that you are sharing. many thanks

Looking forward to the aurora borealis pictures from the Yukon.

All the best and be safe and have a safe and fun trip!

Edwin and Jessica

I'd like to echo Clint's message. I thought it was going to be hopeless weatherwise, so I didn't bother to go to LMDSS, you've proven me so wrong!

These photos show you have a rare gift. I feel so lucky to have seen them.
All the best for your hols and have a great time. --Geoff

Very impressive photos plus film clip. They were great. Thank you very much for sharing them with me.