German  English

Luna eclipsiata Limburgiensis

The Total Lunar Eclipse on 04. May 2004 in Gückingen near Limburg, Germany

Experience Report

After the two successful observations of total lunar eclipses on 16. May and on 09. November 2003 a chance again to observe and to be able to photograph the red moon over a domestic landscape was offered on 04. May 2004. Similarly as on 16. May 2003 the vision of an image of the partially eclipsed moon over a spring landscape appealed. My searches in forefront of the lunar eclipse resulted in that there should be a few possibilities in the north of Dreieichenhain of capturing the lunar eclipse as well as flowering apple or chestnut trees on one picture.

Already on the day before the weather forecast was such bad that I saw the chances for this perhaps only at 10%. In the morning of the eclipse day however again the sun showed up on a clear blue sky, on the horizon still inconspicuous cloud layers over Taunus and Odenwald. The latter, if it did not change would just cover the important horizon-near ranges at the azimuths 115-125, at which in the evening of the eclipse rise should take place.

In the early evening a dramatically worsened situation presented itself. In the course of the day a cloud band has come up from the south that, extended in NNO SSW direction, slowly also spread toward the west and about 17:30 o'clock reached the area of Wiesbaden. Further west the heap could continued to increase, but the sun seemed to dominate further. About 19:00 o'clock an about 4 degree high bright range extended at the west and northwest horizon of Dreieichenhain, while all other areas of the sky showed a closed cloud cover, which was particularly dark above the bright zone between the Frankfurt airport and Wiesbaden. In the zenith the cloud cover was relatively thin. Due to the fact that it was about a closed far expanded cloud band and no tendency of dissolution could be recognized, I assumed that the cloud band would not dissolve until the moon rise around 20:40.

Cloud situation in Dreieich

Cloud situation in Dreieich

on 04. May 2004 19:28 CEST in Dreieich-Dreieichenhain. Up to approx. 4 degrees over the west horizon there are cloud gaps. Reflected by the soil sunlight can be recognized weakly in the clouds.

The sunbeams shone through some cloud holes at the edge of the cloud band and delivered a beautiful curtain of beams. But what I did not ever see in this form were reflections of the sunlight on the Earth's surface, which illuminated farther high lying clouds from below. Were it the forest lakes between Langen and Mörfelden, which projected the sunlight to the cloud cover? The car partially already packed, I still looked at this light play. However the decision was now: Evade toward northwest, A3 to direction Limburg!

The fatal weather situation in the Rhine Main area drove me on the motorway toward northwest. Like already at the solar eclipse on 31. May 2003 and at the lunar eclipse on 09. November 2003 Uwe Müller accompanied me at this native eclipse observation.

According to the development of the cloud situation, as it could be recognized on the satellite photographs on the internet, the only recognizable cloud free strip over Germany between two deep pressure areas, about 100 km broad, was located west and northwest of the Rhine Main area. This was probably the last chance for an observation of the lunar eclipse. On the motorway direction Wiesbaden, in the proximity of the airport the sun came out. The mood increased. In the Taunus mountains however the cloud band in the west could be recognized, that from the Netherlands approached. The sun lowered itself into an area of massive cirrus, which in the meantime reached from the horizon to some degrees above. Over Limburg the sky was clear, in the southeast still the clouds over the Rhine Main area. I had first thought of an area south from Limburg as observation place. But the clouds still achieved too large horizon height, so that we left the motorway at Limburg North and looked for a place at the southeast slopes of the Westerwald with view to the southeast with Taunus and the city of Limburg. Without search we found this short before Gückingen on a dirt road leading to the south.

The view reached up to 35 to 40 km distant Feldberg in Taunus mountains. The clouds covered an area up to 5 degrees over the horizon, when we arrived there around 20:30. The observation instruments, consisting of a Celestron C5 (f=1250mm, D=125mm), a Skywatcher refractor (f=700mm, D=70mm), a Revue refractor (f=910mm, D=60mm), 8x30-binoculars, a Canon EOS500N SLR camera and a Sony DCR-VX 700 mini-DV video camera, were not yet completely setup, when the moon, invisible for us, rose behind the cloud-covered horizon.

Observation instruments

Observation instruments in Gückingen near Limburg

The cathedral of Limburg

The cathedral of Limburg and the motorway bridge over the Lahn river

We waited. A second cloud layer pushed itself over first one, so that the clouds reached now about 12 degrees high. It seemed to take still another while to let one see the moon. But it suddenly and unexpectedly pushed itself orangely bright into a not visible cloud hole. The eclipsed moon stands at about the middle of the first partial phase around 21:20 over the landscape of Limburg and the Taunus mountains with its highest top, the 880 meters high Feldberg.

Lunar Eclipse and Feldberg

The partially eclipsed moon over Limburg and the Feldberg in the Taunus mountains

on 04. May 2004 21:21 CEST, taken at Gückingen near Limburg with a Canon EOS500N and Canon 75-300mm tele zoom at 135mm and f4.5, 1/3 second exposed on Fuji200 negative film.

I took several photographs with the tele lens. The moon moved higher. Now I thought of a 910mm-image through the Revue refractor. There the moon already began to say good-bye again. Not only the Earth’s umbra, but now also suddenly again clouds did eat at it. And it had already disappeared again.

Cloud situation

Cloud situation around 21:33 CEST

on 04. May 2004 21:33 CEST, taken in Gückingen near Limburg with a Canon EOS500N and Canon 24-85mm-wide angle zoom at 24mm and f8, 15 seconds exposed on Fuji200 negative film.

It became further darker. The blue of the dawn sky disappeared and the light of the moon, which could just not be seen in form of the lighting from clouds although full moon was. The lunar eclipse went at 21:52 CEST into the total phase and the sky was strongly cloudy up to the zenith. Suddenly the situation had dramatically worsened. Only in the north and northwest some stars and planet could be seen through cloud gaps. In the northwest stood Venus, Mars and Saturn in the sky still lit up by the dawn, however weakened by cirres and some small deeper clouds. Now and then also Jupiter showed up trough cloud gaps.

Some new cloud holes pull into the area, where the moon would have to stand. But no moon can be seen. It still lasts some time up to the middle of totality. Sharply floodlights beam below this area, that obviously belongs to a prison located there. Clouds consolidate and it begins to rain. Memories to 11. August 1999 become awake, because now the telescopes must be protected from the rain with plastic tarpaulins. But the rain remains small and is only of short duration.

22:30 CEST- Maximum of the eclipse. The totally eclipsed moon is released by a tiny cloud hole, but hardly completely. The time is just enough to align the video camera and to still capture the moon by video. There is it already away again. Imprisoned! The moon stands directly over the prison behind the clouds.

But again release comes completely unexpectedly. Around 23 o'clock the clouds tear open. From southwest there are starry skies! Jupiter beams in the constellation Leo more magnificently than used from the light-flooded Rhine Main area. The moon shines totally. Totally eclipsed it worked itself out of the clouds. The dark sand-brown to brown-red disk stands majestically in the sky in the constellation of Libra and had left the prison to the lower left. Luna eclipsiata Limburgiensis in librae iusticiae. Perhaps so the Romans would have said, but the limes runs some kilometers southwest from here, and the prison did also not exist at that time here…

Total lunar eclipse and alpha Librae

Total lunar eclipse and alpha Librae

on 04. May 2004 23:05 CEST, taken in Gückingen near Limburg with a Canon EOS500N and Canon 75-300mm tele zoom at 300mm and f5.6, 30 seconds exposed on Fuji400 negative film, tracked with Celestron C5 mount.

Shortly after end of the Totality

23:11 CEST- Shortly after end of the Totality

on 04. May 2004 23:11 CEST, taken in Gückingen near Limburg with a Canon EOS500N focally through a Celestron C5 telescope (f=1250mm, D=125mm), 15 seconds exposed on Fuji400 negative film.

Second partial phase

23:40 CEST- Second partial phase

on 04. May 2004 23:40 CEST, taken in Gückingen near Limburg with a Canon EOS500N focally through a Revue refractor (f=910mm, D=60mm) with Canon 2x tele converter, 1/8 second exposed on Fuji400 negative film . The focusing was done by the positioning of the tripod, on which the camera was separately mounted. A cardboard tube protected against disturbing beams of light.

Some tele images of the moon with the southern two brightest Libra stars, which stand about 2 moon diameters north of the moon, and then through the tracked C5 at 1250mm focally. But it is already 23:08 CEST. End of Totality. Again an eclipse eye stands in the sky. It looks nearly perpendicularly down to the horizon. Like a jewel this lunar eclipse diamond ring. Gradually the lit part of the moon becomes larger. The eclipse is now observable unimpairedly. The stars turned pale again by the arising moon light, which illuminates everything increasingly. A few small groups of little clouds decorate the partial lunar eclipse. First they move hardly noticeably above the moon. Gradually larger clouds come up, loosened up, but nevertheless already so that they cover the moon completely now and then.

Partial lunar eclipse in clouds

23:42 CEST - Partial lunar eclipse in clouds

on 04. May 2004 23:42 CEST, taken in Gückingen near Limburg with a Canon EOS500N and Canon 75-300mm tele zoom at 200mm and f4.5, 2 seconds exposed on Fuji400 negative film.

Transition to the penumbral eclipse

00:14 CEST - Transition to the penumbral eclipse

on 05. May 2004 00:14 CEST, taken in Gückingen near Limburg with a Canon EOS500N and Canon 75-300mm tele zoom and Canon 2x tele converter at 600mm and f5.6 (f11), 1 second exposed on Fuji400 negative film.

For the end of the second partial phase after midnight the deeclipsing moon promised dramatic photographs between vapour clouds briefly. In the viewfinder of the video camera the penumbral eclipse having now begun can still clearly be recognized. More and more clouds move before the moon, swallow it more and more frequently. Meanwhile we pack the observation equipment again and leave this place, where we have seen and nevertheless partially not seen a balanced lunar eclipse. In any case this small eclipse journey was a large success. The more we neared home again, the more the clouds consolidated again, in Dreieich no trace of the moon, only a breath of moon light, that further illuminated the anyway bright Rhine Main night.

Stephan Heinsius, 05. May 2004, addition of pictures between 09. and 20. May 2004.

Impressum | Keimeno CMS