The TOTAL Lunar Eclipse of 31 January 2018

Don't miss the joy of a Copper Moon Rising, visible throughout South Asia!

Basics :
The total lunar eclipse of the 31 January 2018 will occur around moonrise, in the evening.
It is important to chose a location that ensures an unobstructed view to the eastern direction.
No equipment is necessary!
Just plan ahead, find out the moonrise and eclipse times for your location and pick a good spot.
Organise a Copper Moon Picnic and be there!!

                                  Read on for more details....

Left: Image of the moon during the total lunar eclipse of 15 June 2011. Right: A collage of a sequence of images of the moon taken during the lunar eclipse of 10th December 2011. The images, right to left show the phases of partial eclipse before totality, totality and partial eclipse after totality, respectively. The relative locations of the images are as they were on the sky. Note the copper colour of the moon during the totality phase. View the video of this eclipse created by Ajay Talwar! (All the photographs were taken by Ajay Talwar from Majkhali, Uttarakhand, India.)

    Eclipse Resources
  • 7 tips on photographing the eclipse
    • Tip #1: Focus perfectly. Indeed perfect focus is as important if not more important than the correct exposure. Whether you are using a cellphone camera or a DSLR with a zoom lens, focusing is important. Cellphones usually do not have manual focusing, but tapping on the screen on the live moon would bring it into focus. Wait for it to finish its focusing routine before clicking. If the cellphone is moved after focusing, the focus will probably change, so take care to focus again. With SLR cameras, use the manual focus setting, live view and zoom in till the maximum level to check the accuracy of the focusing. Seasoned astrophotographers aim their cameras at a nearby bright star to focus accurately, and then swing back to the moon. Another trick is to use a Tab which has a bigger screen and can show the live view much better. The app on your Tab can also control your camera.
    • Tip #2: The stability provided by a tripod is a must. One of the most common reasons for blurry moon images is vibration or shake. These days you also get tripods for cellphones (or the cell phone holder that is stuck to the inside of car windscreens). Clicking is a source of shake, and in DSLR cameras there is the mirror shake. You can eliminate all these vibrations or shakes by using a remote control or simply using a 10 second timer. Shake can also be introduced by putting on the “Image Stabilizer” on DSLR lenses when using a tripod. Keep the IS setting or the VR setting at ‘of’f, when using a tripod. During totality the moon can go very dim, and if the atmosphere is not clear, the moon can turn almost black. So, photography would require long exposures in the camera, in which case the earth’s motion might cause blurring. While you can’t stop the earth rotating, you could use high ISO to reduce the exposure time.
    • Tip #3: In India the moon will rise in eclipse, an opportunity for a landscape eclipse shot, This is a great opportunity to frame a well-known photogenic landmark of your city with the rising lunar eclipse. You will need a good amount planning to make a landscape shot with the eclipsed moon. Usually when you think of lunar eclipse images, a long focal length lens comes to mind. ‘The Photographer’s Ephemeris’ (TPE) app on your phone or similar websites offer excellent help. TPE combines the GoogleEarth and celestial angle/time calculations, to help you locate you and your camera precisely at the point where you can frame the lunar eclipse with the terrestrial landmark. You could also think of positioning yourself on a cliff with a vast landscape stretching down towards the east and the eclipsed moon rising behind that, get the picture?
    • Tip #4: Get your exposure right! If you are shooting a landscape shot, remember that the sun will be almost the same altitude below the horizon behind. So if you want to shoot the moon at 5° above the horizon, then the sun will be approximately 5° below horizon. Photographers call this the ‘Golden Hour’, and the exposure needs to be tuned to the sunlight conditions on the landscape. As the moon rises, and the sun dips down, at about 12° comes the ‘Blue Hour’, when the landscape is dimmed, and becomes predominantly blue. You must plan for longer exposures at this time to catch the landscape in proper light. While shooting just the eclipsed moon, do note that during totality the moon can get very dim, requiring long exposures or high ISO. In the partial phases, part of the moon is brightly lit in the penumbra, and the other part of the moon is dark, red and in the umbra. Both parts of the moon require different exposures. A short exposure will render the umbra part severely underexposed, and an exposure which is long and correct for the umbra part will render the other part of the moon severely overexposed. You may like to build an image with high-dynamic range by clicking several exposures and merging them together later.
    • Tip #5: Do not forget to turn off the flash on the camera or cell phone!
    • Tip #6: Take it easy, enjoy the show, and take your loved ones along to see the lunar eclipse while you shoot in a leisurely manner. The lunar eclipse (unlike a solar eclipse) gives you a long opportunity to make a super image. Rather than shooting hundreds of shots, review your images, check for focus, check its histogram, and make corrections in the next image. Share an instant image on the social media!
    • Tip #7: Affix your cellphone camera behind a binocular eyepiece or a telescope eyepiece. For stability you may need to couple the cellphone with an inexpensive adapter available online. You will get a superb shot, ready to be shared instantly!

  • Sketch showing the various positions of the moon through the eclipse in the sky
    Sketch showing the various positions of the moon as it moves across the Earth's shadow cast by the Sun, viewed against the background of the sky. The parts where the moon is considered "entering"/exiting" the Moon's shadow are referred to as ingress/egress respectively. In the figure, the path of the eclipsed moon is marked by intermediate points that are commonly referred to as 'points of contact'. P1 is the first point of contact, when the leading edge of the moon just "touches" the outermost edge of the penumbra. P2 (not shown) would be the point when the trailing edge of the moon is at the outer edge of the penumbra, but in this case the angular size of the penumbral segment is just smaller than the angular size of the moon. Therefore, before P2 can occur, U1, viz., the point when the leading edge of the moon first "touches" outer the edge of the umbra, occurs. P2, and similarly P3, the point where the leading edge of the moon would touch the inner edge of the penumbra during egress, are not shown. At U2, the trailing edge of the Moon is just within the umbra during ingress, and at U3 and U4, the leading and trailing edges of the moon respectively "touch" the edge of the umbra at egress. Finally P4 is when the trailing edge of the moon just exits out of the penumbral shadow which marks the end of the eclipse. The images of the moon at positions U1 and U4 appear dimmer than at positions P1and P4 because the moon is outside the umbra but within the penumbral shadow. The images of the moon at U2, Mid (centre-most position within the umbra) and U3 appear reddish because all these three images are in the totality phase and only the reddened sunlight that gets through the Earth's atmosphere reaches the moon. The green line represents the plane of the ecliptic, i.e., the plane of the earth's orbit around the Sun, and it therefore bisects the umbral shadow of the Earth. Some of the background stars are also shown. The blue lines connect the stars in the constellation Cancer.
    Sketch by Ajay Talwar
  • Animated sketch showing the motion of the moon through the umbra & penumbra
    The outer circle represents the earth's penumbral shadow cast by the Sun and the inner circle represents the umbral shadow. The date & time counter gives times in Universal Time, NOT local time. When the moon passes through the penumbral shadow a very slight dimming of the moon is barely apparent. When the moon enters the umbral shadow, the direct light from the Sun is fully blocked, and therefore the relatively small amount of 'leaked in' reddened light is visibly seen to be reflected from the moon - it appears copper-coloured!
    Animation Credit: wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons License
  • Table of timings of the various stages of the eclipse (Universal Time & Indian Standard Time)
    EventDate (UT) Time(UT)Time (IST)
    P131 Jan 2018 10:51:15 16:21:15
    U131 Jan 2018 11:48:27 17:18:27
    U231 Jan 2018 12:51:47 18:21:47
    Mid31 Jan 2018 13:31:00 19:01:00
    U331 Jan 2018 14:07:51 19:37:51
    U431 Jan 2018 15:11:11 20:41:11
    P431 Jan 2018 16:08:27 21:38:27
  • Article on the Total Lunar Eclipse (by P Shastri, in: Shikshana Vaarthe, Dec 2017: Kannada)
  • Article on the Total Lunar Eclipse (by P Shastri, in: Teacher, Jan 2018: Kannada)
  • Booklet by Shirali Balachandra Rao: Eclipse - An Indian Perspective
  • Some 'Did-you-know's
    • The moon is at an average distance of about 384,400 km from the earth.
    • Therefore light takes about 1.3 seconds to travel between the moon and the earth.
    • The difference between the smallest and largest moon’s distance from earth is about 50,000km.
    • The moon revolves around the earth at a speed of about 1km per second.
    • The earth’s diameter is about four times larger than the diameter of the moon
    • The suns diameter is about 109 times that of the earth and about 400 times that of the moon
    • The “super-moon” appears about 14% larger than a regular full moon.

By Prajval Shastri, Ajay Talwar, Juny Wilfred & Palahalli Vishwanath                email your comments to
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