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Thursday, 27 January, 2000, 12:00 GMT
The lunar eclipse: What you didn't see

Three phases of the lunar eclipse (Barnes) Three phases of the lunar eclipse (Barnes)


By BBC News Online Science Editor Dr David Whitehouse

Two astronomers have captured on film something of the beauty and majesty of last week's lunar eclipse.

Three photographs of the Moon have been superimposed by Canadian astronomer Stephen Barnes to produce one stunning image. It shows the eclipse from the time when the Moon entered the Earth's shadow, when the Moon was near the middle of the shadow, and just before the Moon exited.

The red tint of the eclipsed Moon is the result of sunlight passing through the Earth's atmosphere, which scatters blue light (that is why the sky is blue), but refracts red light towards the Moon. Differing amounts of clouds and volcanic dust in the Earth's atmosphere will vary the redness seen in each lunar eclipse.

The Moon over a monastry (Casado) The Moon over a monastry (Casado)



The second and third images on this page are by Spanish astronomer Juan Carlos Casado. The first shows how the Moon appears and disappears during the eclipse. As the Earth moved between the Moon and the Sun, the Earth's shadow fell on the Moon, making it dark. In the time-lapse photograph, the Earth's rotation caused the Moon and stars to appear as streaks during this four-hour exposure.

In the foreground is the abbey of the Benedictine monastery of Sant Llorenc del Munt, in Girona, Spain, which has stood since the 11th Century. As the Earth's shadow engulfed the Moon, the satellite's streak became less and less bright, almost disappearing during eclipse totality.

During totality, the Moon, which normally shines by reflecting direct sunlight, shone only by sunlight refracted through the Earth's atmosphere. Later, clouds obscured the re-appearing Moon.

Time-lapse shows the earth's shadow (Casado) Time-lapse shows the earth's shadow (Casado)



The second Casado photograph, another composite image, shows the progression of the curved shadow of the Earth over the Moon.

The photos are the copyright of Stephen Barnes and Juan Carlos Casado






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