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The BBC's Sue Nelson
"People in the US seem to have got the best view"
 real 28k

Alan Jenkins
The view from Scotland was excellent
 real 28k

Robin Scagell, amateur astronomer
There will be another chance for Europe next year
 real 28k

Earth shadow
Watch the Earth's shadow creep across the Moon
 real 28k

Computer simulation
A graphic demo of a lunar eclipse
 real 28k

Friday, 21 January, 2000, 14:26 GMT
Moon glows red

moon The colour is not easy to predict


Skywatchers got a stunning view of a total lunar eclipse on Friday. The Moon went a deep shade of red as it turned out of the light of the Sun and into the Earth's shadow.

It all began at 0301 GMT, with totality reached a little over an hour later. Reports from around the globe - the eclipse was visible from the Americas, Africa and Europe - suggest the event lived up to expectations.


It was really quite exciting, so exciting in fact that the cat got up to watch it from the window
Alan Jenkins, Scotland
The exact colour the Moon turns during a lunar eclipse is not easily predicted and depends on the amount of dust in the Earth's upper atmosphere.

Duke Johnson, planetarium director at SciWorks science museum in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, US, said it was the most impressive lunar eclipse he had seen for 15 years.

"It's a much brighter eclipse than we've had in recent years. It's a nice red colour," he said.

Astronomical phenomenon

In Mexico City, dozens gathered in the central Zocalo plaza to watch the Moon through telescopes set up by an astronomy society.

Brazil The eclipse viewed from Londinia, Brazil



"It's an astronomical phenomenon that has great influence on the Earth, that serves to remind us of where we come from," society member Julio Nieto said.

"It's a very impressive sensation to see it."

Steve Winstanley, a petro-physicist working in the Algerian Sahara, got out of bed early to see the eclipse. "It went from a silvery grey to blood red and then went half copper, half black," he told the BBC.

Astronomers said the best way to view the lunar eclipse was to stand away from street lights and use a pair of binoculars. It is not necessary to protect the eyes as with a solar eclipse.

Moon In a lunar eclipse, the Moon passes into the Earth's shadow



But heavy cloud ruined the event for many UK skywatchers. The best place to view the eclipse was in the South West, the North, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Alan Jenkins got a clear view from Balmorina, beside the Tay in north-east Fife, Scotland.

"I saw a definite blood-orange screen over the top quarter of the Moon. By about 0420 GMT, the Moon was three-quarters obscured, still with the same dull-red tinge. It was really quite exciting, so exciting in fact that the cat got up to watch it from the window."

Dr Robin Catchpole, senior astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, said the red coloration was a brilliant effect.

"If you were standing on the Moon, you would see that the Earth had a very bright, red rim around it as the Sun's light is refracted through the atmosphere. It's that light that's illuminating the surface of the Moon."

There will be another total lunar eclipse on 16 July this year, visible from Asia, the Pacific and the western side of the Americas. Europe gets another chance to view the spectacle on 9 January next year.

Moon wonder

It is said the explorer Christopher Columbus was once saved by a lunar eclipse when his access to food was blocked by native people in Jamaica in 1503.

Moon facts
Diameter - 3,476 km
Mass -7.35e22 kg
Earth distance - 384,400 km
Orbit - 27.322 (Earth days)
According to the story, he waited for the eclipse he knew was about to arrive, then threatened the locals that the gods would remove the Moon if they did not hand over the food.

Lawrence of Arabia used his knowledge of an imminent lunar eclipse to rout superstitious Turkish soldiers at an Ottoman desert fort.

As lately as 1974, 16 people died in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh when soldiers fired guns to frighten off the monkey they thought was eating the Moon.

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See also:
21 Jan 00 |  Talking Point
How did it look to you?
21 Jan 00 |  Americas
Picture gallery: Total lunar eclipse
18 Jan 00 |  Sci/Tech
Moon to blush bright red
24 Aug 99 |  Eclipse99
Signs and wonders

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