Monday, 13 April 2015

Last week's Lunar Eclipse

Last week stargazers across the Pacific, from Australia and eastern Asia to the west coast of the USA were treated to a stunning lunar eclipse. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth blocks the path of the light from the Sun to the Moon, making the moon go dark.

Lunar eclipses are wonderful celestial events to watch, partly because they take longer to occur than a solar eclipse, so it can be easier to observe them, but also because at the moment of totality the Moon briefly appears a reddish-brown colour, leading to the nickname of such events as blood moons. This red colour is caused by a small amount of sunlight passing through the Earth's atmosphere, where it is refracted and reddened (much like the light from the Sun at sunset), and then illuminating the Moon. While this phase only lasts a few minutes, it can be very impressive!

A photographic montage showing the total Lunar Eclipse on April 4th, 2015 (Credit: Roger Clark)

The photograph above from Roger Clark shows a montage of photos of the moon taken during the eclipse, progressing from an un-eclipsed moon on one side, followed by a partially-eclisped moon, then a fully eclipsed blood moon, and then followed by partially and un-eclipsed moons as the eclipse finished. This sort of photographic montage not only shows the lunar eclipse happening, but also highlights the path of the moon across the night sky during the eclipse.

If you missed the eclipse then don't worry, the next total lunar eclipse will be on September 28th, 2015, and will be visible to stargazers in the Americas, Europe and Africa. It should be good!

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