A red moon seen in Canberra during last night's lunar eclipse. Picture: Gary Ramage
Moon puts on a bloody good show
The Australian
Sallie Don
December 22, 2010

THE sun, moon and the Earth aligned last night to create a rare lunar eclipse coinciding with the southern hemisphere's summer solstice. The best view had been expected in Brisbane, with a full lunar eclipse lasting 13 minutes from 6.40pm (AEDT), but cloud cover and bad weather hindered much of the view for star-gazers.

Sydney and Canberra were privy to a partial eclipse later in the evening, as clear skies allowed for a 45-minute view of the shadowed moon. All states except Western Australia were able to catch a glimpse of the spectacle.

Across America and Europe, people were greeted with a celestial treat in the early hours of the morning as a total lunar eclipse transformed the moon to blood-red. This coincided with the northern hemisphere's mid-winter solstice, the first time the two events had occurred simultaneously in almost four centuries.

Hundreds of internet users also uploaded photos of the darkened, colour-tinged moon to go with NASA's close-ups. NASA's eclipse expert Fred Espenak explained that while the entire event was to be visible from North America, Greenland and Iceland, Western Europe saw the initial stages before moonset, and western Asia was treated to the later stages after moonrise.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth lines up between the sun and the moon, which then blocks the sun's rays to the moon, resulting in a partial or full shadow across the moon. The red colouring arises because the sunlight reaching the moon has passed through a long and dense layer of the Earth's atmosphere.

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