Total Lunar Eclipse – Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015

Posted by as Observing Highlights

Observing Report

The weather was clear for this total Lunar Eclipse. RASC Victoria Centre members were observing from various locations around Victoria, including Cattle Point, Mt. Tolmie, Clover Point, and Esquimalt Lagoon. It was a beautiful clear Sunday night with mild temperatures, so thousands of members of the public came out to see the apparition as the Moon rose in the east around 7PM. Many missed the first minutes of the eclipse since the Moon was obscured by low clouds along the SE horizon, however once it cleared the clouds, it was a spectacular sight! By 9PM, the show was over and police at the various locations directed traffic as people returned home.

Several of our members captures excellent photos. Please browse the gallery or watch the slideshow below.

Total Lunar Eclipse in full eclipse
Total Lunar Eclipse in full eclipse


On Sunday, September 27th, weather willing, we will be able to view a total eclipse of the Moon. The Moon rises already in partial eclipse as the Sun sets just after 7 pm PDT. After reaching totality the Moon will gradually regain its brightness over the course of 3 hours. It’s a perfect opportunity to capture some snapshots of the event. Read further to find out what happens during the eclipse and how to capture it photographically.

This will be the last total Lunar Eclipse visible in North America until January 2018!

What’s Happening

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth comes between the Sun and the Moon. During a lunar eclipse the Moon’s position traverses the Earth’s shadow. The Moon’s first contact with the Earth’s shadow is at the outer band of the shadow called the penumbra. The light falling on the Moon is progressively blocked until at the moment of total eclipse the Moon is completely in the darkest central area of the Earth’s shadow called the umbra. At the point of total eclipse the process starts to reverse itself until the Moon is totally out of the Earth’s shadow.


  • limb – the outer edge of the Moon
  • penumbra – the outer band of the Earth’s shadow
  • umbra – the darker central area of the Earth’s shadow
  • partial eclipse – the Moon is positioned within the penumbra
  • total eclipse – the Moon is positioned totally within the umbra


 E C L I P S E   T I M E L I N E
Moon below the horizon Moon’s eastern limb enters the penumbra 5:11 pm PDT
Partial eclipse begins – 1st Contact Moon’s eastern limb enters the umbra 6:07 pm PDT
Moon rises 6:58 pm PDT (approx)
Total eclipse starts – 2nd Contact Moon entirely in the umbra;
deep orange red
7:11 pm PDT
Totality 7:47 pm PDT
Total eclipse ends – 3rd Contact 8:23 pm PDT
Partial eclipse ends – 4th Contact Moon’s western limb leaves the umbra 9:27 pm PDT
Eclipse ends Moon leaves the penumbra 10:22 pm PDT


Above Eclipse times are for Pacific Daylight Saving Time (PDT) for the west coast of North America.

Observing Tips

What do you need?

Everything from your eyes, binoculars and telescope are suitable. Bear in mind this is a long process and at this time of year dress warmly and bring a chair if you want to be comfortable.

Find yourself a location that has a clear horizon view of the east especially if you wish to view during the early stages.

Keep a log of what you see and note the time. Pay attention to how much of the light on the moon is obscured and if there are any colouration changes. During the total eclipse the Moon will take on a deep orange-red colour. The colour of the Moon is a function of contaminants in the atmosphere and varies from year to year.

Photographic Tips

Any camera with the capability of setting shutter speeds and aperture settings manually will do fine. The ability to use interchangeable lenses will be an advantage for more detailed images of the Moon. For the darker parts of the eclipse, eg. totality you should use a tripod support for best results. If you have access to a telescope you can try capturing the event using prime focus techniques through the telescope optics.

Today’s digital cameras are very sensitive to light reflected by the Moon. Use ISO 400 to ISO 800 and a long telephoto lens or zoom setting. Smartphones and point-and-shoot digital cameras will not produce rewarding photos of the eclipsed Moon, but can be useful for taking panoramic shots of your surroundings which include the eclipsed Moon.

The simplest eclipse pictures can be taken with manual settings on your camera and a normal lens, preferably supported by a tripod. For best results use a cable release to minimize vibration. Images taken in this fashion result in a small lunar image. This is why it is preferable to use a telephoto lens to photograph the Moon. For a 35mm camera try a 200mm lens or something close to this, even better a 500mm lens or higher. You may also use teleconvertors to increase magnification, these typically come in 1.4x and 2x strengths. Their downside is they reduce the effective aperture of your optical system. A 1.4x teleconvertor will decrease your effective exposure by 1 stop, a 2x teleconvertor will decrease your effective exposure by 2 stops. Work out your effective aperture of your optical system ahead of time so you don’t have to think about it on the night of the eclipse.



 Focal Length  Aperture Effective Focal Length
with 2x teleconvertor
Effective Aperture
with 2x teleconvertor
 180mm  2.8  360mm  5.6
 480mm  6.8  960mm  13.6


To achieve any higher magnification than what is stated above you will have to use a telescope at prime focus. For this your manual camera does need to have the capability of using interchangeable lenses. For prime focus you will use the telescope optics as your interchangeable lens. To attach your camera to your telescope you will need two things a T-adapter that fits your camera and a telescope camera adapter that fits your telescope. The telescope camera adapter is designed to fit in the focusing tube of your telescope and is threaded to accept the T-adapter of your camera. With the magnification involved with telescopic optics it is likely that you will need to use a tracking mount. Preferably the mount should be able to track at lunar speed as opposed to sidereal but if the shutter speeds chosen are shorter than 1 or 2 minutes this is not critical.

Exposure times are the next consideration. The following exposure times are based on a medium speed film and an effective aperture that would be common with a long telephoto and teleconverter combination. Exposures may vary with your equipment based on ISO speed of film used and effective aperture. The Danjon Lunar Eclipse Luminosity Scale has been included to provide better guesstimates for totality.


Exposure Times: based on ISO 400
Full Moon  1/250 second at f/16
1st Contact 1/125 second at f/16 see note 1.
2nd Contact 2 seconds at f/16 see note 2.
*see table below
L = 4 : 8 seconds at f16
L = 3: 30 seconds at f16
L = 2: 2 minutes at f16
L = 1: 8 minutes at f16
3rd Contact 2 seconds at f/16 see note 2.
4th Contact 1/125 second at f/16 see note 1.
* Danjon Lunar Eclipse Luminosity Scale
 L = 1 dark eclipse; lunar surface details distinguishable only with difficultly
 L = 2 deep red or rust coloured eclipse; central part of the umbra dark but outer rim relatively bright
 L = 3 brick-red eclipse; usually with a brighter (frequently yellow) rim to the umbra
 L = 4 very bright copper-red or orange eclipse, with a bluish, very bright umbral rim


Note 1. 1st and 4th contact times given for the partial phases are biased for the light part of the Moon. Remember you are dealing with vastly different exposures between the light and dark parts of the Moon during eclipse. The bias of about 1 stop minus avoids overexposure of the dominant bright area of the Moon.

Note 2. 2nd and 3rd contact times given for the partial phases are biased for the dark part of the Moon. The bias of about 1 stop plus is a good strategy for negative film not quite so good for slides and digital capture given they don’t tolerate overexposure well.

The exposure times are only recommendations. Remember the cardinal rule about photography … bracket. Always try exposures plus and minus your chosen exposure. This gives you a better chance at getting usable results. Let’s all hope for clear weather. If you have any questions please send email to David Lee at

David Lee – original image and text
Joe Carr – updated for 2015
Brenda Stuart – illustrations

The Total Lunar Eclipse of 2008 was very similar to this one in 2015. Here is the online gallery of some of our members’ photos of that event.

One Response to “Total Lunar Eclipse – Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015”

  1. Christmas Letter 2015 – Joe Carr

    […] observing the eclipse, as I was. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Victoria Centre’s Observing Report and Eclipse […]

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