Amateurs star-gazers and astronomers worldwide were dusting off their telescopes and unsheathing their binoculars Saturday for the first total lunar eclipse in three years.
The moon will turn a shade of crimson as light reaching it from the sun is almost completely blotted out by the Earth. The eclipse will be at least partly visible on every continent, although residents of Europe, Africa and the Middle East will have the best view, weather permitting.
Lunar eclipses occur when Earth passes between the sun and the moon, blocking the sun’s light. The event is rare because the moon spends most of its time either above or below the plane of Earth’s orbit.
Sunlight still reaches the moon during total eclipses, but it is refracted through Earth’s atmosphere, bathing the moon in an eerie reddish light.
Despite cloudy conditions over much of Europe, a variety of webcasts were carrying the event live, and astronomers urged the public not to miss out on the spectacle. “It’s not an event that has any scientific value, but it’s something everybody can enjoy,” said Robert Massey of Britain’s Royal Astronomical Society.
Earth’s shadow will begin moving across the moon at 2018GMT, with the total eclipse occurring at 2244GMT and lasting over an hour.
Residents of east Asia will see the eclipse cut short by moonset, while those in the eastern parts of North and South America will find the moon already partially or totally eclipsed by the time it rises over the horizon in the evening.
While eastern Australia, Alaska and New Zealand will miss Saturday’s show, they will have front row seats to the next total lunar eclipse, on Aug. 28.