STAR-GAZERS around the world turned their eyes skyward on Saturday night for the spectacular sight of a total lunar eclipse. While varying portions of the event were visible across much of the globe, Australia was one of best places in the world to catch what was the last full eclipse until 2014.
The weather bureau warned that many Australians would miss out on witnessing the eclipse as heavy cloud rolled in and blanketed the night sky. The colour change was caused by a scattering of sunlight as it passed through the thin ring of the earth's atmosphere, removing the blue light and passing mainly the red, some of which illuminated the moon.
At the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, some 300 people, many clutching coffee cups in the frigid morning air, sat with blankets and chairs on the observatory's great lawn.
Perched on a slope north of downtown near the Hollywood sign, the property offers clear views of the sky. Observatory officials alerted the crowd when the eclipse began and spontaneous applause erupted when the celestial event ended.
The Moon Cycles
"It's really exciting to be out here. It's really just a beautiful image...," Alex Padron, part of an amateur astronomy group, told KTLA-TV. Adelaide Planetarium lecturer Paul Curnow said lunar eclipses had long been associated with celebrations and omens. "The Ge Indians of Brazil believe that eclipses are a result of a battle between the sun and moon," he said.
"They believe that the eye of the moon, or sometimes the sun, is pierced by a young boy who has shot them with an arrow ... As a result, the wound bleeds and is symbolized by the moon turning a reddish-orange color. A clever man or shaman removes the arrow and then the wound starts to heal." The Vikings believed the moon was being eaten by a wolf when it turned red. Many Australian Aborigines saw the coppery-red moon as an omen that someone had been killed.