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The night of the black pictures

The total lunar eclipse on 21 February 2008 in Dreieich Götzenhain

Experience Report

Eclipse Live 2008 – after the successful live transmission of the total lunar eclipse at the night of 03. to 04. March 2007 Harald Petrich and me had started a project for the year 2008 under this title, with the aim to be able to present the total lunar eclipse at the night of 20. to 21. February 2008 and the total solar eclipse on 01. August 2008 via our internet portal to a broad public on the internet LIVE, respectively in case of bad weather at our own observation place to participate at the celestial spectacle via AstroCams at other places.

Already in 2007 two strong partners joined us: eclipse city and Together with them we want to travel in August to the Gobi desert, to transmit from there the solar eclipse, and already jointly present at the end of February the total lunar eclipse.

In the ending year 2007 and in the new year 2008 AstroNation had been extended and our publicity was continued to increase. A jointly press statement, various mailing activities, links and postings and talks with TV stations brought us in the night of 20 on 21. the desired audience.

Already during the day, when already the Dreieich WetterCam on AstroNation showed a usually cloudy sky, there was a multiple of spectators as otherwise. But the main activity started at the evening, after we were linked on the internet pages of ZDF (Second Channel of German Television) and HR (Hessian Braodcast), and the HR had presented us in its weather magazine "Alle Wetter ". Constantly new user registrations came in, the interest rose from hour to hour. Our forums were so active, as not known before. We gave assistance at short notice to new users, to enable them to go LIVE. So we had not only 5 but finally 9 registered Cam locations, two of it abroad. Also Mike Simmons from California, with whom we had already discussed a Live transmission of the lunar eclipse from the USA some weeks ago, gave us at the late night the message that he had moved now to the observation place in the mountains near Los Angeles (unfortunately no transmission came from there due to bad weather).

After approximately 2 weeks continuously good weather over Central Europe just starting from 20. February we had to expect Atlantic lows with clouds and rain. The weather forecasts were not good for the night of the total lunar eclipse. Starting from the evening views more and more frequently went feared on the newest satellite photographs at and the podcasts of Jürgen Vollmer at By telephone I was in contact with Harald Petrich, Stefan Krause and Dirk Ewers, because a permanent change of the observation site was permanently in discussion. But to where go, everywhere it remained uncertainly. Direction Bonn/Aachen towards the cloud gaps, which opened themselves in the first night half over Belgium and the English Channel, or wait until they moved to the direction of Kassel or towards the Rhine Main area? Perhaps nevertheless to the south to the Black Forest, there cloud gaps from the area of Paris could approach. Dirk Ewers decided to remain finally in North Hesse, the chances there should last better according to the weather forecasts than in south Hesse. And Stefan Krause already had clear view to the moon in the first night half. But how long it would hold keep at his site? With me in the Rhine Main area around midnight everything was closed, when with Dirk Ewers the moon could be seen. But it was already brighter. I tended more and more to remain at home. Jürgen Vollmer notified again bad prospects to me, however a small chance to see the moon a little bit. Around 1 o'clock in the discussion with Stefan Krause I tended more and more to remain at home (from another place I would have also to plan in the return trip home on the early morning), and suddenly during the conversation the extremely full moon laughed through my rooflight. The decision was quickly met. Remain at home and immediately prepare everything.

Full moon

01:33 MEZ - Full moon 2 minutes before the entry into the penumbra

taken in Dreieich-Götzenhain with a Jenoptik JD5.0z3 digital camera through a SkyWatcher refractor (D=70mm, f=700mm) with 30mm eyepiece.

Shortly after 1 o'clock I was online with the moon at 800x600 pixel resolution LIVE on AstroNation. For this I had attached a Philips SPC1300NC to my new Scopos APO ED refractor (66/400). With the digital camera in eyepiece projection behind the SkyWatcher (70/700) just before I had taken the first picture of the full moon before beginning of the penumbral phase. Around 2 o'clock it becomes hazier, Jürgen Vollmer warns me about fogs, but the first penumbral phase is very good to recognize, in the SkyWatcher 70/700 refractor and also on the internet transmission. The user numbers rise despite nocturnal hour, soon again several hundreds users gather on the different cams. Because of my own observation I can not see everything there. I look into a Cam from Portugal, but the colleague does not have a telescope, the moon unfortunately remains a small spot on the screen there.

Moon in the Penumbra

02:08 CET - Moon in the Penumbra

taken in Dreieich-Götzenhain with a Jenoptik JD5.0z3 digital camera through a SkyWatcher refractor (D=70mm, f=700mm) with 30mm eyepiece.

Lunar Eclipse and Eelescopes

02:11 CET - Lunar Eclipse and Eelescopes

Moon over the observation telescopes in Dreieich-Götzenhain during the first penumbral phase on 21.02.2008 at 02:11 CET. At the rear left the Scopos 66/400 with Philips's SPC1300NC WebCam during the live transmission.

The fog becomes thicker, but still I can compensate with auto-exposure and amplification. Harald does not have a view to the moon, he must switch off one portal function after another, due to the rising server load, so that we can still keep the webcastings. In the meantime the fog is too thick and the first partial phase is only rarely visible through gaps, too short to be able to take photos. The webcasting screen remains now nearly all the time black. Uwe calls, he has now and then a view to the partial phase in Kelsterbach. And there the moon showes up at my site, but I did not get a chance to get it in front of my camera, because the moments are too short and I have the telephone at the ear.

At the end of the first partial phase the narrow crescent shows up again longer, but now the server does not cope with the storm of requests I can keep the crescent in the view, but I don’t know if it still can be seen by the spectators. The totality begins around 4:00, the moon disappears in the shadow of the Earth and our server also said good-bye. I take some photos with my Jenoptik JD5.0z3 digital camera, e.g. 2 photographs of the beginning totality through my Celestron C5. The light of the town disperses itself strongly in the fog. The red-brown moon is weakened now and then by invisible clouds. But occasionally it is good to see and beside it the star Regulus and the planet Saturn. A beautiful triangle constellation in the fog over the lit nocturnal city of Götzenhain.

Moon at the Complete Entry into the Umbra

04:00 the Moon at the Complete Entry into the Umbra

taken on 21.02.2008 at 04:00 CET in Dreieich-Götzenhain with a Jenoptik JD5.0z3 digital camera through a Celestron C5 telescope with 30mm eyepiece.

Total Lunar Eclipse

The total lunar eclipse on 21.02.2008 at 04:15 CET over Dreieich-Götzenhain

taken with a Jenoptik JD5.0z3 digital camera. Fog disperses the light of the road lighting very strongly and lets the sky around the red-brown moon appear greenish yellow.

Everything is soppy, very quiet, and now and then invisible clouds move before the moon and let it be more or less well visible. On the PC screen the red moon can be seen only as grey wafer in the lower left corner of the screen. The camera comes to the limit of its luminous intensity, the fog does the rest. I do not readjust, the server is dead, nothing is happening. And then I go again outside and look after the moon. Also the moon is gone now. No more photos, no more webcasting, no more moon. Everything wet, cold and quiet. Harald only briefly saw the moon, Dirk has luck and a good view to the moon in Hombressen near Kassel. For me the moon remains disappeared for the end of the totality and for a long time during the second partial phase. Harald says good-bye on skype, no more moon with him.

It remains quiet and moonless, I probably must still work on the PC, perhaps I prepare the pictures, which I have taken during the totality with my digital camera already for the internet presentation, when Harald’s sad message reaches me. He had just got to know that his seriously ill father died in the hospital. There he had to take again his way, this night was not for sleeping. I remain up, and the second half of the second partial phase brings me again the moon before my camera, I install the SkyWatcher 80/400 onto the tracking mount and take some pictures through the 30mm eyepiece. The still eclipsed moon is stuck in thick green yellow fog clouds. It can be seen now and then until approx. 6 o'clock when it finally disappears. The server is up again, the webcams are offline, I place my pictures onto the portal.

Second Partial Phase

05:55 CET - Second Partial Phase in the Fog

Second partial phase of the total lunar eclipse taken on 21.02.2008 at 05:55 MEZ in Dreieich-Götzenhain with a Jenoptik JD5.0z3 digital camera through a SkyWatcher 80/400 refractor with 30mm eyepiece.

The daylight comes, a grey day follows the night of the black pictures. And with the daylight my pain comes. So far I was top fit, now all does pain to me and a dry cough overcomes me again and again. I notice my forces are exhausted, overdue to finally go to a direction towards bed around 7:30.

The following days I fight with a persistent virus infection, which firmly had gripped me. The night of the black pictures left their traces.

Only on Friday (29.02.) I telephone again with Harald. The life continues, and we think about our possibilities for the solar eclipse on 01. August 2008.

Stephan Heinsius, Dreieich, 29. February 2008, revision on 02. March 2008.

Last update of this page: 02. March 2008.

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