During the tetrad period of 2021-2022 where we saw 4 total lunar eclipses within two years over Greater Los Angeles, each one had a different experience. The two for 2022 had total opposites!
|Date:||May 15, 2022 | November 8, 2022|
|Location:||Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles, CA|
|Weather||Perfectly Clear for May 15, Cloudy and Rainy for November 8|
|Bortle Scale||don’t bother|
- Celestron 11″ Edge HD
- Celestron CGEM 2 EQ Mount
- Sony Alpha Mk II camera
May 15, 2022
The predicted Lunar Eclipse on May 15 was going to be in mid partial phase when the moon rose over Los Angeles, hence we had to get all of our equipment meant for the Observatory broadcast up and on the moon as soon as possible.
This was also the first time since the Observatory opened to the public in June 2021 that we would have a Lunar Eclipse during normal business hours with the public attending. And of course despite the efforts of numerous media outlets, I encountered many visitors who were unaware a lunar eclipse was about be visible at sundown. I’m sure there were plenty of satisfied viewers whenever any of them looked through the telescopes we had set up on the front lawn.
The roof and the historic telescope was closed off to the public, and only VIP guests could get near the dome on the roof but not inside to look through the “big telescope” as it was being used exclusively to record a time lapse and be used for the live broadcast. With two of my colleages on the historic telescope, I volunteered to use the C11 Edge, the designated “back up” telescope to be used for astro imaging unless needed for the broadcast.
Once the Sun set, I actually managed to ge the moon in view with the C11 before the Zeiss telescope did, so there were definitely a few moments where my scope was used in the live broadcast. There were times when some bright background stars were seen to disappear behind the moon and reappear on the other side… showing the moon’s path along the ecliptic in real time compared to the stars.
The eclipse itself was among the darkest I had seen in memory! Not only was the Flower Moon well within the central portion of earth’s shadow, but we noticed that to the naked eye, the moon during totality was rather hard to spot. As it turns out, we weren’t alone over Los Angeles, as it was reported to appear rather dark over places like Joshua Tree National Park where the skies weren’t tarnished by city lights. From one veteran observer I talked to, he told me it was probably the second darkest eclipse he’d ever seen… topped only by an eclipse that occurred after Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption that caused a lot of high atmospheric ash to settle and darken the moon. We believed that we were experiencing a similar effect caused by the Tonga eruption that happened 5 months earlier.
Overall, the eclipse experience could not have been any more perfect! Pretty much everyone who was working the event enjoyed the hell out of it!
And of course… here are the telescope shots
November 8, 2022
Once again, I was set to go and help with the broadcast team for the November 8 eclipse. Unlike May’s, this was going to take place shortly after midnight, meaning it wasn’t going to be at a convenient hour for casual viewers, and during hours when the park was closed.
There was only one problem…. a major storm, the kind that lasts 2-3 days (long enough for this author to still be hearing rain drops over my home as he’s typing this post), was forecasted over the Greater Los Angeles area! But despite that, the Observatory senior staff made the call to attempt the broadcast anyway with a plan to end early if the weather was bad – meaning I still had to report to work!
I literally drove to the observatory in the rain only to arrive and see the clouds clear up over Los Angeles and see all of us on the broadcast team stunned at the major break in the clouds. We were still thinking of rain in mind, and rather than set up the historic Zeiss telescope, it was decided that setting up the C11 Edge was more practical and easier to cover up in the event of rain, rather than risking any water get on the “big telescope’s” 91 year old refractor lens or old equipment.
Now… had this eclipse started happening during the break in clouds, then we’d be having a different experience. The full Beaver Moon looked beautiful above the observatory. When the clouds were still thin enough, they added a lot of “character” to the live feed showing the Moon.
However… JUST as the Moon was entering the Penumbral stage of the lunar eclipse, the winds changed, and we were not only seeing cloud fronts approach from multiple directions and converge, but we were also dealing with fog and mist… pretty similar to the November 2021 lunar eclipse experience. But the broadcast began, and with another telescope colleague, I helped keep the moon in frame without too much drifting, which got harder as the clouds kept thickening.
And on cue, just as the moon was entering the umbral section of earth’s shadow, the clouds thickened for good. And we could see on the radar that the rain was approaching, thus there was not going to be a chance of us seeing nor showing any hints of totality.
The decision was made to end the broadcast just as I could see on the radar that rain was touching down just south of the observatory. As soon as the broadcast was cut, we could start feeling rain drops, and we all had to cover up the electronics and get off the roof as quickly as possible.
So for 2022, I got to experience two lunar eclipses… but in two complete opposite fashions