It's been nearly 400 years since a total lunar eclipse took place on the night of the winter solstice (the last one was 1638), so we just couldn't imagine sleeping through it in My Florida Backyard. Mother Nature cooperated with perfectly clear skies, and although the temperatures dropped into the mid-40s, the absence of any wind made the night pleasant if chilly.
Although you can enjoy an eclipse without any special equipment, taking pictures of it is a lot harder. Our camera isn't really fancy enough for any fantastic shots. However, by using a tripod and taking some long exposures, we captured a few pictures we thought were worth sharing. This one is really the best, taken not long after the moon was fully eclipsed by the earth's shadow. As anticipated, the moon took on an amazing orange-red hue.
Here's a collage of a series of shots taken as the eclipse began (first shot around 2 a.m. EST) and proceeded to almost fully eclipsed (last shot in this series around 3:15 am EST). For a really great explanation of the stages of an eclipse, visit this page on Space.com.
It was astonishing how dark the night grew as the eclipse took place. We stepped out earlier in the evening to enjoy the full moon itself, and it was so bright out one could read a newspaper in the moonlight alone. Stars in the sky near the moon seemed to disappear in the bright moonlight. When the eclipse was total, though, the darkness returned and stars in the sky seemed vivid in contrast. The fully-eclipsed moon is in the upper right of this long-exposure photo, showing as a bright disc with an orange tint. Orion stands in the bottom-center, almost seeming to reach toward the glow the moon leaves behind.
Another long-exposure shot of the fully-eclipsed moon and nearby stars:
Pictures from our puny camera can't do the eclipse justice, and neither can words. Last night's event was an experience worth losing a night's sleep for, and the perfect way to welcome Winter to My Florid Backyard.