Blood Moon Dazzles in Longest Lunar Eclipse of 21st Century

A blood-red moon dazzled star-gazers across much of the world on 27 and 28 July when it moved into the Earth's shadow for the longest lunar eclipse of the 21st Century.

From the Cape of Good Hope to the Middle East, and from the Kremlin to Sydney Harbour, thousands of people turned their eyes to the stars to watch the moon, which turned dark before shining orange, brown and crimson in the shadow.

Lunar Eclipse as seen in Chennai, on Saturday.
A full moon sets over Petronas Twin Tower during a complete lunar eclipse in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Saturday, 28 July.

The total eclipse lasted 1 hour, 42 minutes and 57 seconds, though a partial eclipse preceded and followed, meaning the moon spent a total of nearly 4 hours in the Earth’s umbral shadow, according to NASA.

A blood moon rises over Gaza City on Friday, 27 July.

Also Read: Watch: Century’s Longest Lunar Eclipse Visible From All of India

The fullest eclipse was visible from Europe, Russia, Africa, the Middle East, and much of Asia and Australia though clouds blocked out the moon in some places. The eclipse was not visible from North America or most of the Pacific.

In Nairobi, Kenyans watched as the moon darkened.

"This is what life is all about: Magical moments like this," said Teddy Muthusi as he watched from Uhuru Park in Nairobi. "It's just beautiful. It's well worth it."

The moon turns red during a total lunar eclipse, as seen from Dresden, Germany on Friday, 27 July.

On the banks of India's Ganges, temples were closed ahead of the eclipse. Enthusiasts watched through telescopes at the Marina South Pier in Singapore and at the Al Sadeem Observatory in Al Wathba near Abu Dhabi.

Hundreds of people in Australia paid to watch the eclipse from the Sydney Observatory before sunrise.

When the moon moved into the conical shadow of the earth, it went from being illuminated by the sun to being dark. Some light, though, still reaches it because it is bent by the Earth's atmosphere.

The moon is framed by the Colosseum during a complete lunar eclipse in Rome on Friday, 27 July. 

Why is it Called Blood Moon? "It’s called a blood moon because the light from the sun goes through the Earth’s atmosphere on its way to the moon, and the Earth’s atmosphere turns it red in the same way that when the sun goes down it goes red." - Andrew Fabian, professor of astronomy, University of Cambridge, to Reuters

A blood moon rises in Tel Aviv, Israel on Friday, 27 July.

At the same time, Mars is traveling closer to Earth than it has done since 2003, so some observers may see what looks like an orange-red star – and is in fact, the red planet.

"It is a very unusual coincidence to have a total lunar eclipse and Mars at opposition on the same night," said Robert Massey, deputy executive director of the Royal Astronomical Society, who watched the eclipse from the Mediterranean Sea.

The blood moon as seen from Abu Dhabi.  

For thousands of years, man has looked to the heavens for omens of doom, victory and joy. The Bible contains references to the moon turning into blood and some ultra-orthodox Jews consider lunar eclipses ominous and a cause for moral contemplation.

According to some Hindu beliefs, celestial bodies such as the sun and moon emit negative energy during an eclipse and so some temples in India were closed to minimise any disturbance.

Astronomers, though, said there was no cause for worry.

"There is no reason to believe that blood moons foretell doom," said Massey. "This does not herald the apocalypse: seeing a lunar eclipse and Mars in the sky is something people should enjoy rather than worry about."

Here’s how the lunar eclipse looked from space. 

The next lunar eclipse of such a length is due in 2123.

Tweeple “Over the Moon’’!

(With inputs from Reuters)

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