Astronomers photographed the starry sky during lunar eclipse

The presented image was taken on May 15 by the staff of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. It shows the beautiful night sky, the dazzling strip of the Milky Way stretching through it and the Magellanic clouds. If you look closely, you can also notice a characteristic red object in the middle of the stars. It’s the Moon. The picture was taken at the time of a total lunar eclipse.

Total solar eclipse over the Cerro Tololo Observatory. Source: CTIO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/D. Munizaga

The Moon is the second brightest object in the earth’s sky. In the full moon phase, it creates a very strong illumination, which significantly complicates any observations of the sky in the optical range. And if it hadn’t been for the eclipse, astronomers would never have been able to capture most of the celestial bodies visible in the image.

The following timelapse gives a more complete idea of how much the Moon illuminates the sky. It was taken on the night of May 15-16 by a survey camera located next to the Gemini South telescope (like Cerro Tololo, it is also located in Chile).

It is easy to notice that the Moon, which is in full phase, initially “drowned out” almost all the stars (except for a few of the brightest luminaries). But as soon as the earth’s shadow hid it, the sky literally shone with myriad lights and a strip of the Milky Way appeared on it.

You can also look at the whole spectacular image showing what the recent solar eclipse, also observed in Chile, looked like.

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