April 6, 2020

Astro-Vid Of the Week: Adventures in Eclipse Webcasting

Totality! The April 15th 2014 Total Lunar Eclipse.

(Photo by Author).

Backyard astro-tech has certainly gotten much more sophisticated since we hand-sketched our first lunar eclipse as a kid back in the 1980’s. During this week’s total lunar eclipse, we thought we’d try our hand at live streaming the event. We’ve been a voracious consumer and promoter of eclipse webcasts over the past few years, and we thought this week it was high time to give back.

And just such an opportunity presented itself early this week, when the first eclipse of 2014 graced the skies over Astroguyz HQ. Tuesday morning’s lunar eclipse was the first of four — referred to as a tetrad — for North America from 2014 until late 2015, and it did not disappoint. And although the world didn’t end, the “Blood Moon” meme is probably now here to stay. We started off with a bare bones UStream webcast, until we answered the last minute call to assist fellow Virtual Star Party host Scott Lewis with a Google+ broadcast over at Space Fan News:

We webcast the eclipse live for about two hours, from the beginnings of partial phases right through totality. Our Microsoft Lifecam performed admirably, and auto-adjusted to the dimming Moon to offer fine views right through totality.

This was an especially bright eclipse, and judging from the web traffic, the early morning timing of this eclipse didn’t deter many space fans. And although we’ve got three more lunar eclipses over the next 18 months, this week’s offered the best circumstances for viewers here in Florida.

Using UStream, Google+ and YouTube, anyone with a scope, webcam and laptop can put together a decent ad hoc astro-broadcast. Contrast this with the very first eclipse I attempted to watch online from an internet café back in the late 1990′s which mainly offered timed out connections, failed dial-up browsers, and scant few grim images of the event. You’ve come a long way, baby, and it’s amazing to watch and participate in the brave new cyber world of astronomy!


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