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May lunar eclipse and a colorful cosmic cloud

The orange eclipsed moon on right while colorful stars glow on the left during May lunar eclipse.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Tara Mostofi took this photo in the Little Panoche Reservoir area of Northern California during the May 26, 2021, total eclipse of the moon. She wrote: “Taken by myself from Bortle 3 skies on a dark desert highway in Northern California (near Little Panoche Reservoir).” Thank you, Tara!

May lunar eclipse and Rho Ophiuchi

2021’s first eclipse – the May lunar eclipse on the 26th – took place in the sky near the Rho Ophiuchi Cloud Complex. This colorful cosmic cloud is a favorite target for astrophotographers. The photos on this page show the Rho Ophiuchi region, which, in its entirety, stretches 4.5 degrees by 6.5 degrees across the dome of the sky. For reference, the width of the full moon is 1/2 degree. Next to the constellation Ophiuchus in the sky is the constellation Scorpius. Its brightest star Antares also appears in some of these photos, shining brightly from 550 light-years away.

Thanks to all who contributed these photos!

A red-lit moon next to a bunch of dots glowing in shades of orange, blue, and purple in a starlit night sky.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | EarthSky friend Marco Nero at the Bellbird Hill Lookout in Sydney, Australia, captured the end of the eclipse and Rho Ophiuchi. He wrote: “Shot during the last moments of the eclipse with a Canon EOS Ra astrophotography camera. This surreal-looking image is (surprisingly) not a composite. The modified sensor on the EOS Ra captured a brightly saturated crimson flare due just as the eclipse was ending: due to its propensity to respond to red and infrared colors as well as bright subjects. No colors were added; all the colors in this image were extracted from the JPEG data during editing via selective saturation enhancement. I planned this image a year ago when I realized the moon was going to be nestled in the Ophiuchus Complex with bright colors nearby. Though extremely cold at this location in the Sydney Blue Mountains, the view was stupendous and it was wonderful to see the Milky Way appear to the unaided eye as the moon dimmed and turned orange-red.” Absolutely astounding. Thank you, Marco! Find Marco’s original, unedited JPEG here.
Speckles of white lights with brighter lights surrounded by colorful, wispy space clouds.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Ken Chan in Redwood City, California, captured this photo of Rho Ophiuchi on May 31, 2021. Ken wrote: “Antares and Rho Ophiuchi.” Thanks, Ken!
Cloudy swirls of color and dark streams around bright lights during May lunar eclipse.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Eyad Khailany in Erbil, Iraq, captured this photo of Rho Ophiuchi on May 27, 2021. Eyad wrote: “The many spectacular colors of the Rho Ophiuchi (oh’-fee-yu-kee) clouds highlight the many processes that occur there. The blue regions shine primarily by reflected light. Blue light from the Rho Ophiuchi star system and nearby stars reflects more efficiently off this portion of the nebula than red light. The Earth’s daytime sky appears blue for the same reason. The red and yellow regions shine primarily because of emission from the nebula’s atomic and molecular gas. Light from nearby blue stars – more energetic than the bright star Antares – knocks electrons away from the gas, which then shines when the electrons recombine with the gas. The dark brown regions are caused by dust grains – born in young stellar atmospheres – which effectively block light emitted behind them. The Rho Ophiuchi star clouds, well in front of the globular cluster M4 visible here on the upper right, are even more colorful than humans can see – the clouds emit light in every wavelength band from the radio to the gamma ray.” Thanks, Eyad!

Bottom line: Photos of the May lunar eclipse near colorful Rho Ophiuchi.

See more May 26, 2021, lunar eclipse photos

Read more: The beautiful abundance of Rho Ophiuchi

June 3, 2021
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