03/2007 Total Lunar Eclipse Event Print
3rd March 2007

Saturday evening saw one of the most spectacular lunar eclipses in recent years.

After the threats of bad weather and being clouded out, Northern Ireland was treated to an evening of astronomical proportions.

After a glorious day and beautiful sunset, the Moon rose above the horizon while the world watched in anticipation. A light shower failed to dampen the spirits as members of the public gathered with the East Antrim Astronomical Society north of Belfast.

As Dr Ed Barnett presented a lunar talk at the Ballyearl Arts Centre, Newtownabbey, crowds gathered to watch the Moon pass through the shadow of the Earth.

“Eclipses of the moon happen when the Earth stops sunlight from reaching the Moon by being in between the Moon and the Sun. This can only happen when the Moon is full. Earth's shadow has two parts, a dark inner core called the umbra and a pale outer fringe called the penumbra” explained Dr. Barnett, member of the East Antrim Astronomical Society.

 

“As the Moon moves into the penumbra it will darken, turning orange, and when it moves into the umbra, it will become dark red, and it can seem as if the Moon is made of blood!”

As the eclipse progressed, eager sky watchers viewed the shadow of the Earth as it began to eat into the edge of the Moon. During the penumbral to umbral phase, a cry came out, “It’s turning blue!” and so it was. The Moon took on a blue hue near the terminator and then turned a deep red.

A Channel Islands astronomer from Alderney, Mike Maunder predicted, “My hunch, my gut reaction, is that dust thrown up in China from the Gobi Desert will give the moon a blue colour”. Mr Maunder has written two books with Sir Patrick Moore and went on to say, “It is a good indicator of global warming these days. Sand from the Gobi Desert almost reached Beijing last year and the dust created many strange changes in the climate”.

One thing for certain was the sheer wonder of what was visible. Many people looked through a telescope for the first time and were able to enjoy the detail of the cratered surface of the Moon.

The planet Saturn was in the sky too and this jewel of the night sky awed visitors as they viewed the planet’s rings and its moons. The Great Orion Nebula and our closest galaxy, Andromeda were also viewed with wonder through telescopes.

As totality approached, the true brilliance of the fully eclipsed Moon sunk in and there was a brief silence as not just Northern Ireland, but all of Europe, Africa, eastern USA and western Asia watched this remarkable alignment of the planets.

The next lunar eclipse visible from Europe will be in 2008 in the early hours of the morning

Lunar Eclipse Animation

 

Download our Lunar Eclipse Flyer now.

 

Animation courtesy of Shadow and Substance.

 

 

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