Total Lunar Eclipse
26 May 2021 UTC
Tucson, Arizona
Glenn Schneider
(Steward Observatory and the Department of Astronomy, The University of Arizona)


In the locally wee hours of Mountain Standard Time (USA) I was joined by (normally solar-) eclipse chasers John Beattie and Craig Small to observe the total lunar eclipse (TLE) of May 26, 2021 UTC from my backyard in Tucson, Arizona.  This was an unusual TLE with a (relatively) very 'short' totality lasting only 14 minutes as the Moon transited with a near-grazing interior tangency through the outer-most portion of the Earth's umbra.

With the Moon above the horizon for most of the eclipse as seen from Tucson, in principle, nearly the whole event should have been observable (all but the very last few minutes of partial-phase egress occurring after local Moonset). A dismally murky sky full of increasingly intrusive clouds, however, took its toll on the event.

For us this TLE event was a glass less than half full - drinkable only pre-totality during the partial-ingress phase. Initially, during partial-ingress (only), the Moon could occasionally be seen through short 'breaks' in the otherwise obscuring cloud cover, but often with only "mayonnaise jar" transparency and (lack of) quality in sky cover. This gave briefly intermittent views of the ingress phase, but with increasing degradation as time went on. Both totality and the pre-Moonset partial-egress phase were unfortunately cloud-obscured.  

A punctuated photographic sequence was possible for most of pre-totality ingress (only) but was strongly affected/degraded at times in image quality and contrast by sky haze, murk, and cloud-scattered light. (The sequence was obtained with unequal cadence, taking images when breaks or partial translucence in less-dense clouds permitted while compensating with highly variable exposure times due to cloud presence).

Photomosaic of the partial ingress phase of TLE 26 May 2021 (affected by clouds and haze).  Taken with a vintage clock-driven (tracking) Questar 3-1/2" telescope at its f/14 focus and using a Nikon D800 camera very kindly on loan from eclipse-chaser Joel Moskowitz. All exposures at ISO 1600 with variable exposure times due to rapidly changing cloud transparency and cloud-scattered Moonlight.

Chronological top-left to bottom-right by row in UTC:

1: (Full Moon during penumbral ingress): 091320
2: 094430, 094913, 095759, 095949
3: 100349, 100854, 101427, 102348
4: 102840, 103343, 103950, 104405
5: 104849, 105356, 105757, 105944

We were then, for all practical purposes, fully "skunked" out of totality (and later egress) by a fully overcast sky. Only the faintest barely perceptible dim splotch of locally incoherent brightening in the clouds during the earliest minutes of totality could be - with great difficulty - discerned. Other than this faint hint of lunar presence which would certainly have gone unnoticed if not a priori being sought, essentially from totality onward a complete "wipe out".

Despite drinking from only less than half of a TLE glass for this event, what was seen of the ingress phase was quite memorable, and does augment the growing series of TLE events "chased" with clearer skies from within my own backyard.

Some other recent "backyard" TLE's imaged under better sky conditions:
TLE 15 APR 2014
TLE 04 APR 2015
TLE 28 SEP 2015
TLE 31 JAN 2018
TLE 21 JAN 2019

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