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Stargazing in the Canaries I - A Lunar Eclipse

Updated: Jun 7

I had been planning to visit the Canaries for a while and my two weeks off work in May seemed like the perfect time to do this.


It was the very first holiday I took where I brought my complete astrophotography setup. I was supposed to go to Egypt and take photos in the desert last year, but Covid restrictions came crushing down on my plans...


This time, the first difficulty was choosing the exact days: normally, it would be a no-brainer to travel during the New Moon to fully benefit from the dark skies the Canaries have to offer. In this case, however, there was a total lunar eclipse coming up that I also did not want to miss. Therefore I opted to travel just before the eclipse and I accepted a week of moonlit nights in exchange.


I took the following setup: William Optics Carbon Fiber tripod, William Optics RedCat51, Askar FMA135, Rainbow Astro RST-135 (mount), ASI2600MC and ASI1600MM as astrocameras. OMD E-M1 Mark III and Leica SL2 for wide angle shots. A pair if Canon stabilized 10x40 binoculars for admiring the views. Plus lots of accessories...
I took the following setup: William Optics Carbon Fiber tripod, William Optics RedCat51, Askar FMA135, Rainbow Astro RST-135 (mount), ASI2600MC and ASI1600MM as astrocameras. OMD E-M1 Mark III and Leica SL2 for wide angle shots. A pair if Canon stabilized 10x40 binoculars for admiring the views. Plus lots of accessories...

Packing up my setup was not without stress and the fear of leaving something behind, but I was able to bring everything I needed - albeit definitely not everything I wanted ;) on board. I could not imagine putting my delicate astrophoto equipment in the checked luggage, so I had a *very* heavy backpack with my mount and cameras and a handy little handbag with my telescope.


The first stop was Lanzarote. I booked a very remote - somewhat strange - accommodation that they referred to as "The Dome". We had a clear view on all the directions except the northwest and light pollution was truly minimal. We were also far away from any other people, so it was safe to potentially leave the cameras and telescopes outside overnight.


Our self-sustaining eco-dome in Lanzarote
Our self-sustaining eco-dome in Lanzarote

Unfortunately, the clouds did not comply with my plans. I started out with a carefully crafted table detailing the timing, telescope and camera to be used for each photo I would take. It did not take me a long time to realize I'd need to prioritize the objects I really want and just give up on the rest!


On the first night I set up everything, only to realize, despite all my efforts, I left a cable at home - the one connecting my mount to my ASIAir - a rather important one I may add! I opted to alternate the cable between the focuser and the mount - as they are the same - until I could purchase a new one. Thankfully, I was able to find it just two days later.


The second night was the one of the lunar eclipse. The shadow of the atmosphere started at about 2:30 am. That meant I was able to get about 50 minutes of shut-eye after setting up, but I was way too excited to sleep!


I dressed up warm and went outside at 2am only to find that the clouds also got the memo about my big night and would not miss it for the world... However, thanks to some sort of divine intervention, they mostly cleared up within half an hour!

My equipment was ready and I started imaging:

  • My Olympus OMD EM1 Mark III with a 400mm lens and a 1.4x teleconverter on my equatorial mount

  • A Leica SL2-S with a 24mm lens on a tripod for a wide-angle view

  • Vespera, the portable smart telescope by Vaonis

Binoculars in hand, I was excited to see my first ever lunar eclipse. The time finally came, and.... well, nothing happened! Like, for a really long time. I had expected to be able to see something also during the prenumbral phase of the eclipse...


A little disappointed, I kept waiting, and then boy did I see something! When the Moon entered the shadow of the Earth, it was so much darker than I had anticipated! It was a beautiful moment of gratitude that I got to see this with my own eyes.


The Moon was so dark at totality that I had a difficult time editing this image to make it appear - it came out completely dark!
The Moon was so dark at totality that I had a difficult time editing this image to make it appear - it came out completely dark!

As the event was getting closer to totality, the sky got progressively darker and the Milky Way core appeared in front of my eyes. Checking on the cameras every once in a while, I took this opportunity to identify some star clusters and nebulas with my binoculars - trying to focus on objects I cannot see from our home latitude.


I was also in contact with many astro friends over the internet, some of whom were watching the event as well, and others who experienced it through my storytelling and photos.


It was about 5am when I knew that the batteries of my cameras were not going to last the whole night, but I was still happy that they made it until totality at least.



I went to bed at 6am, slept for two hours and woke up an extremely tired person, but I was one incredibly beautiful experience richer. As I was not able to bring my computer on my holidays, I had to wait until 2.5 weeks later to have the final, aligned time lapses and processed photos you can see here.


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