Get up a little earlier to see this astronomical event
Early risers on the morning of Wednesday July 17 in Australia should look to the western horizon as the moon sets where you will see that the expected full moon is not complete, but instead, there will be a bit taken out by a lunar eclipse. This unique little astronomical event will be easy to enjoy for most people as it doesn't require staying up late or heading out to remote areas.
Photo of a partial lunar eclipse courtesy of Jörg Weingrill @ Flickr
What is a lunar eclipse
Lunar eclipses occur when the big blundering Earth gets between the moon and the sun. As it happens when the moon is on the far side of the Earth from the sun, it means that the lit part of the moon is facing the earth, so lunar eclipses only happen when the moon is full.
A partial eclipse is when only part of the sun's light is blocked by the Earth and is visible as a bite taken out of the moon. You can watch it happening if you are patient, with the moon first dimming in a corner then darkening to a deep red colour over a period of an hour and a half. If you are busy though you can just get up and have a look as you get ready for work or school in the morning.
When to view the lunar eclipse Much of Australia will not get to see the entire partial eclipse at its fullest because the moon will set before the eclipse is complete, but we should be able to get a view of some of the eclipse anyway.
In Sydney it starts at 6.01 AM and will be visible until 6.55 when the moon sets, though this is before the eclipse peaks. Sunrise will be at 6:57 am.
In Melbourne, it starts at 6:01 am and you will see the eclipse at its peak at 7:30 am, a few minutes before moonset and only 2 minutes before sunrise.
In Brisbane it also starts at 6:01 am, with the partially eclipsed moon setting at 6:38 am, at around the time of sunrise.
Over in Adelaide it starts at 5:31 am and peaks at 7 am, 20 minutes before sunrise and half an hour before moonset.
On the west coast, Perth will be able to see the entire eclipse, which starts at 4:01 am, peaks at 5:30 am and finishes just before 7 am, with the sun rising at 7:15 am and the moon setting at 7:24 am.
Photographing the lunar eclipse
Photographing the moon isn't have hard. The main thing you need is a tripod. A telephoto lens makes it easier to focus in on the moon, but not that important if you want the moon and the surrounding landscape.
What makes photographing this one even more easy is that it occurs close to sunrise, so even if it sets before the sun rises where you are, the predawn light will mean that you will get the landscape around the moon. As a result, you should be easily able to capture the moon on your smartphone or camera with just automatic settings. If you are photographing the moon when it is darker on your phone, try downloading a night photography app that makes night photos look better.
Image of partial lunar eclipse courtesy of Abdalrahman Mohrat @ Flickr
While it is still dark and if you have a camera where you can adjust the settings, try an aperture of about f/8 or f/11 and a 1/125 second exposure. What makes photographing a lunar eclipse interesting is that the area eclipsed doesn't go completely dark, which means you can photograph it so that you see part of it in a dark red shadow or with other settings the eclipsed part will appear black.