The weather gods can be terribly unkind to astronomers. And the greater the spectacle, the more they seem to delight in tormenting us. Anyone who has travelled thousands of kilometres to see a total solar eclipse knows all too well the heart-stopping meteorological worries that invariably accompany such events. While a lunar eclipse isn’t really in the same league as a total eclipse of the Sun, both are special and infrequent enough to invite ill fate.
Conditions here in Victoria, British Columbia, couldn’t have been lovelier in the days leading up to Monday night’s lunar eclipse. Spring had finally arrived and there was even the first hint of summer in the air over the weekend. So when the big day came and grew progressively cloudier and windier, I sensed my meteorological luck had run out. By the time evening arrived, rain threatened and a 70-km-per-hour wind howled outside my window. Reluctantly, I brought my scope indoors for safety.
As Monday night transitioned into Tuesday morning, the situation seemed hopeless. But unwilling to admit defeat, I kept vigil and watched with increasing dismay as each eclipse milestone passed behind clouds. First contact with the umbra: clouds. Start of totality: clouds. Midtotality: clouds. Finally, with only ten minutes of totality left, the weather gods blinked.
A swiftly moving sucker hole appeared, and then another, and another. Amazingly, I could glimpse stars in the gaps between clouds! With reckless haste, I grabbed the scope and camera and rushed outside. And though I set up in near-record time, the first bright sliver of the lunar disc was already emerging from the umbra as I struggled to focus the camera. To make matters worse, I could hear the telescope’s clock-drive motor labouring as its batteries faltered in the cold night air. Still, I fired off a few shots and hoped for the best.
The photo above is the result. It’s disappointing, but it is better than nothing. And it is definitely all the weather gods were prepared to allow on this blustery April morning.