In Pics: Longest ‘blood moon’ in a century watched by stargazers across the world

As Earth's constant companion slowly sailed across the skies, crowds gathered around the world to catch a glimpse of the rare phenomenon.

'Blood Moon'

The longest "blood moon" eclipse this century dazzled skygazers across the globe Friday, coinciding with Mars' closest approach in 15 years in a thrilling celestial spectacle. As Earth's constant companion slowly sailed across the skies, crowds gathered around the world to catch a glimpse of the rare phenomenon.
(With inputs from agencies)

(Photograph:Reuters)

From shining orange to brown to crimson

Mars appeared unusually large and bright, a mere 57.7 million kilometres (35.9 million miles) from Earth on its elliptical orbit around the sun.

A total lunar eclipse happens when Earth takes the position in a straight line between the moon and sun, blotting out the direct sunlight that normally makes our satellite glow whitish-yellow.

The moon travels to a similar position every month, but the tilt of its orbit means it normally passes above or below the Earth's shadow -- so most months we have a full moon without an eclipse.

When the three celestial bodies are perfectly lined up, however, the Earth's atmosphere scatters blue light from the sun while refracting or bending red light onto the moon, usually giving it a rosy blush. This is what gives the phenomenon the name "blood moon", though Mark Bailey of the Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland said the colour can vary greatly.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Brighter and Bigger

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

Reuters charted the eclipse from across the world, capturing a shimmering orange and red moon above Cairo, the Temple of Poseidon in Cape Sounion, near Athens, the Bavarian village of Raisting in Germany, Rio beach in Brazil and Johannesburg.

The eclipse will not be visible from North America or most of the Pacific.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Lunar Eclipse

Unlike with a solar eclipse, viewers did not need protective eye gear to observe the rare display. For about half the world, the moon was partly or fully in Earth's shadow from 1714 to 2328 GMT -- six hours and 14 minutes in all.

The period of the complete eclipse -- known as "totality", when the moon appears darkest -- lasted from 1930 to 2113 GMT.

At the same time, Mars hovered near the moon in the night sky, easily visible to the naked eye.

Amateur astronomers in the southern hemisphere were best-placed to witness the rare sight, especially in southern Africa, Australia, and Madagascar, though it was also visible in Europe, South Asia and South America.

(Photograph:Reuters)

'Eerie and beautiful'

NASA, meanwhile, called out social media hoaxers claiming that Mars would appear as big as the moon during the eclipse.

"If that were true, we'd be in big trouble given the gravitational pulls on Earth, Mars, and our moon!" the NASA website stated. Mars instead appeared as a very bright star."

In the middle of a lunar eclipse it can look as if a red planet has taken up residence near the Earth -- they are both eerie and beautiful," said Robert Massey of the Royal Astronomical Society in London.

(Photograph:AFP)

An orange-red star

Mars is travelling 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.

(Photograph:AFP)

To the 'DREAM'

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.

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

(Photograph:AFP)

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