STUNNING lunar eclipse photo

By Phil Plait | September 5, 2011 6:30 am

Last June, there was a total eclipse of the Moon, and I posted some really nice pictures of it (see Related Posts, below). Later, I saw one that was truly amazing. Seriously, it doesn’t get much better than this:

Holy wow! [Click to penumbrenate.]

That picture, by Chris Kotsiopoulos, is clearly a once-in-a-lifetime shot. He took it from Ikaria, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea. He thought he was going to miss the eclipse due to a thunderstorm, but the clouds parted for a few minutes right in the middle of the eclipse, and he got his shot. You can see the Moon, dull red, floating in the sky to the right of center. The multiple lightning strikes are, well, striking. As someone who has tried to take pictures like this many times, what’s even more remarkable to me is that this was a 28 second exposure! That didn’t allow him too many chances to get this shot right.

The next lunar eclipse is on December 10, 2011, and will be visible to Asia and Australia. I haven’t checked it for accuracy, because yikes, but wikipedia has a list of all lunar eclipses in the 21st century, with maps! The one in August 2036 is particularly long. Mark your calendar.

Credit: Chris Kotsiopoulos, used with permission. Tip o’ the lens cap to Earth Science Picture of the Day.

Related posts:

Time lapsed: the Moon plunges into shadow
Incredible lunar eclipse floats near the Lagoon
In the shadow of the Earth
My new favorite lunar eclipse image

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

Comments (35)

Links to this Post

  1. Thunderclipse! « simsphere | September 5, 2011
  1. andrew

    is there any chance to get a high res version of that? i REALLY want to set it as my desktop background (1920×1080)…

    otherwise, i might just have to “center” it on my desktop 😉

    p.s. it is REALLY cool!!

  2. Robert E

    WOW! Powerfully evocative image.

  3. Messier Tidy Upper

    😀 Lightning = Nature’s fireworks. 😀

    Love this shot. :-)

    That island of Ikaria – is it named for the mythical Icarus, (wax wings, flew too close to our Sun, child of inventor Daedaleus) by any chance?

  4. Bette Noir
  5. poiu

    Actually, wikipedia has lists from the 20th century BCE until the 30th century.
    I guess somebody was really bored.

  6. Mel Holloway

    Stunning! The bright spots raised a question. My first thought was they couldn’t be stars because they seem to be between the camera and the clouds. Did the 28 second exposure ‘allow’ the star to ‘burn’ through?


  7. Nigel Depledge
  8. Trebuchet

    Mel Holloway, I’d guess that’s exactly right.

  9. Astrogarden

    That is just amazing! I continue to be stunned at what modern DSLRs can do with the right conditions and the right photographer!

    I really need to replace my old first generation DSLR.

  10. Larry

    A dark and stormy night, indeed!

  11. Jamey

    I guess it can’t happen with the ISS – but if there were a polar orbiting station or satellite with cameras, wouldn’t it be neat to get a photo of a solar eclipse that didn’t touch the Earth?

  12. Gonçalo Aguiar

    * Set As Desktop Background… *

  13. emily

    This is a great pic but it looks fake to me. If you zoom in really close the moon looks to have a rectangular shape around it. Also the stars seem to be “on” the clouds. Unless the camera is powerful enough to catch the stars through the clouds, but it doesn’t explain the rectangle around the moon. I’m not a photographer but that is what I see.

  14. Holy wow, indeed! What an absolutely stunning photo!

  16. CR

    I’m not seeing a rectangle, but bear in mind that a photograph posted to the internet is going to have compression artifacts when converted to pixels… said pixels appear as blocks, and the more one zooms in on the pixels, the more their blockiness appears to our viewing eyes. It’s not like an old film photo negative that you can keep enlarging and still have a clear image (though film grain comes into play, and the image does get hazy the more you try to enlarge, but I digress).

    Here’s an analagous example of the pixel effect… look at any printed photograph, such as in a magazine or newspaper. In order for a photo to print properly, it has to be converted to a halftone image for the ink to lay properly to the printing plate. A black and white halftone converts areas of light and dark to many sizes of dots, some tiny and faint, others large and heavy. When you look at such a pic through a magnifying glass, you can see the dots, but when viewed from avarage reading distance, our brains interpret the varying dots as a continuous photograph. With color pics, there are four separate plates for each color–yellow, magenta (red), cyan (blue) and black, each color of dot patterns at a slightly different angle to the rest so that no overlaying occurs, creating a blurry pattern known as a moire. Again as with the B&W halftone, when viewed from average reading distance, our eyes and brains ‘blur’ the dot patterns to make what appears to be a continuous photo.
    The JPEG pixel thing is similar; the more you zoom in, the more the ‘dot pattern’ (blocks, rather than dots, actually) becomes apparent.
    (I’ve worked with film & digital photography, in which I’m more of a hobbyist than an expert, but I also worked for a decade in the printing industry, and know from experience rather well how that works.)

  17. As soon as I saw that photo I was thrille, though not for why you might think.. It’s a great photo, I admit, but someone at work has a computer desktop background that is a different photo from that shoot:

    Behold the lightning storm in it’s true glory.

  18. CR

    Oh, talk about distractions…
    In my technical explanation above, I completely forgot to mention that this is an amazing, beautiful photo! So many of my favorite things in one shot: clouds, the moon, lightning, and the lunar eclipse to make it even more special. WOW!

  19. Vex

    Truly an amazing photograph!!!! When I first saw it on APOD back in June, I thought it must be an “artist’s rendition” or something. Took my breath away when I realized what I was looking at.

    Thanks for reminding me of the photo – hello new desktop background!

  20. Another Eric

    I’m making this my new desktop picture!!

  21. Morrigan

    Andrew – Yeah, I want a high-res version for a wallpaper too!

  22. The Mutt

    So when lightning hits the ocean like that, does it kill all the fish?

  23. VinceRN

    Amazing picture, but I too wonder what’s up with the stars in front of the clouds? I first wondered if winds were making the clouds move fast so the stars were there then the clouds went in front of them, but the edges of the clouds seem too sharp for that.

  24. Messier Tidy Upper

    @23. The Mutt : “So when lightning hits the ocean like that, does it kill all the fish?”

    Obviously not all of them! 😉

    Good question though. I heard somewhere (quiz question- radio? Newspaper?) that lightning actually rarely happens over oceans – and is most frequent in Africa geography~wise for some good reason I don’t quite recall.

    You get cloud to cloud lightning and cloud to ground lightning – but the impact of cloud to ocean lightning is something I’m not sure of at all.

  25. Messier Tidy Upper

    The wiki-basics lightning~wise :

    & for Ikaria 😉 :

    Plus for the geographic distribution of lightning :

    which observes that :

    Lightning has its lowest frequency in polar areas. … Lightning also has a very low occurrence over the oceans.

    There’s nothing there I could find in my quick skim through on what happens when lightning does strike the ocean through. Anyone?

  26. mfumbesi

    That picture belongs in a Sci-Phy movie or book. It so gorgeous, it has to be a work of someone’s imagination. Great pic indeed.

  27. RobT

    It is a great photo but I am not 100% convinced this is a fake/real photo. Many of today’s photos are stitched together or overlaid from many single shots to make one composite. See the link in Eris’ post (post #18), that shows how 70 images can be superimposed on one another to make one photo.

    That almost appears to be the case with this eclipse photo. That could explain the stars showing through the clouds but that could also be explained by the 28 second exposure – clouds could have moved in front of the stars at some point during the exposure.

    The problem is it can be so easy for photos to be edited/enhanced these days. This also was done at times using film and darkroom techniques but usually was much more difficult and time consuming. In fact Ansel Adams sometimes spent many hours in the darkroom burning and dodging each of his prints to the point they looked much different from the original negative.

  28. Gabe

    The stars are visible because the clouds in those parts of the shot are more transparent. Simple as that.

    I think people are getting fooled by their ‘gut’…remember this is a 28 second exposure, so the amount of light collected is far more than you see in a particular moment with your eyes. 28 seconds…that’s half a minute.

    And yes this is an amazing picture. Makes me want to grab a camera and do some long exposure photography…just need a lightning storm and an eclipse or two. 😉

  29. Wayne Conrad

    “This is a great pic but it looks fake to me. If you zoom in really close the moon looks to have a rectangular shape around it. Also the stars seem to be “on” the clouds. Unless the camera is powerful enough to catch the stars through the clouds, but it doesn’t explain the rectangle around the moon. I’m not a photographer but that is what I see.”

    At least some of what you are seeing may be effects of the format used to represent the image. JPEG is lossy, and at its higher compression levels, introduces artifacts.

  30. CR

    Huh… what I spent several paragraphs explaining back in Post 17, Wayne Conrad nailed in two sentences in Post 30.

  31. Wayne Conrad

    CR, I’m sorry. I missed your better explanation. My poor reading skill strikes again. Please accept my apology for retreading, poorly, ground that you covered much better.

  32. CR

    No, no, Wayne, I was actually complimenting you on getting to the point much more succinctly than I had! Granted, I have a tendency to over-explain things, but it’s because I know that not everyone has the same knowledge base/background as I do, and I want to try to make sure others can understand what my point is. (When I actually HAVE a point, that is! I do tend to goof around a bit.)

  33. Ians

    Too all those who are concerned about the stars appearing “on” the clouds:
    The clouds are moving very quickly (this is a thunderstorm, they tend to be associated with strong winds), they have moved across the stars in the 28 seconds of the exposures, the reason the clouds look sharp instead of blurred (as you might expect due to the motion) is that the clouds are illuminated by the lightening strikes which last only fractions of a second, remember this is during a lunar eclipse, it is very, very dark so there is nothing else but the lightening illuminating the clouds). The reason the moon, and indeed the stars look oddly rectangular is because they have moved during the exposure, which was as previously noted 28 seconds long, at 15mm focal length at that latitude anything longer than 18 to 20 seconds will show star trailing.

    This is a stunning picture, well done to the photographer for having the determination to sit out the storm! A great example of the old adage: f8 and be there! (although in this case it was f2.8 but who’s counting 😉 )

  34. Glidingpig

    My god, lightning, lava (or lighted rocks next to the photographer), and a lunar eclipse? I will set as my desktop background without a high res version.

    Freaking amazing picture.


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