December 11, 2011 in Nation/World

Lunar eclipse a glowing performance

Sudhin Thanawala Associated Press
Associated Press photo

This photo combination shows stages of the moon during a lunar eclipse Saturday as seen from the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.
(Full-size photo)

SAN FRANCISCO – Moon-watchers, particularly in the western U.S. and Hawaii, were treated Saturday to a stunning celestial phenomenon: a total lunar eclipse.

For 51 minutes starting at 6:06 a.m. PST, the Earth’s shadow completely blocked the moon.

The moon took on a reddish glow as some indirect sunlight continued to reach it after passing through the Earth’s atmosphere. Since the atmosphere scatters blue light, only red light strikes the moon, giving it a crimson hue.

David Sayre, who runs a public relations firm in Hawaii, said it had been cloudy and rainy around his house on Oahu, but the weather cleared just in time for the eclipse.

He awoke, as he usually does, around 3 a.m. and remembered to step outside the house in time to catch the eclipse about a half-hour later. No one else in the neighborhood was up.

“Sure enough it was turning that orangy-red color,” said Sayre, 47. “I said, ‘Gosh, I better grab a camera.’ ”

At the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, some 300 people, many clutching coffee cups, sat with blankets and chairs on the observatory’s great lawn.

Perched on a slope north of downtown near the Hollywood sign, the property offers clear views of the sky. Observatory officials alerted the crowd when the eclipse began and spontaneous applause erupted when the celestial event ended.

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon goes through the long shadow cast by the Earth and is blocked from the sunlight that illuminates it.

The last total lunar eclipse was on June 15, although it was not visible from the U.S. The next one is April 15, 2014, and will be seen in the U.S.

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