The full moon darkened and grew reddish during a total lunar eclipse early today that dazzled observers and amateur photographers around the world.
The edge of the Earth's shadow began to pass over October's full moon, traditionally called the hunter's moon, at 1:15 a.m. PT or 4:15 a.m. ET. It covered the moon for a total lunar eclipse starting 3:15 a.m. PT or 6:15 a.m. ET and lasting 59 minutes.
In much of Eastern Canada, skies were cloudy, blocking out the eclipse for watchers on the ground. People in Western Canada got a better view.
The moon turns reddish during a lunar eclipse because the Earth's shadow blocks almost all sunlight from hitting the moon. The exception is a small amount of light bent around the Earth by its atmosphere.
The atmosphere scatters most of the blue light, leaving only the red to hit the moon — causing it to appear red.
"It's the same reason why the sky is blue … and why sunset is red," J. Randy Attwood, executive director of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, said.
The amount of red colour depends on the weather in the part of the atmosphere the light is passing through, he added. If it's clear, the moon will be brighter and redder, but if it's stormy and cloudy, the moon will be darker and more brownish.
The final two total lunar eclipses of this tetrad will take place next April 4 and Sept. 28.
Meteor shower expected to peak
'It's perfectly safe to look at an eclipse of the moon with your regular eyes or binoculars.' —J. Randy Attwood, Royal Astronomical Society of Canada's executive director
This particular lunar eclipse could give skywatchers an additional treat, by bringing out the meteors of the Draconid meteor shower, which is expected to peak tonight. The annual fall meteor shower produces relatively few meteors compared with the summer's Perseids, and the full moon is expected to wash out most of them. But the eclipse will temporarily darken the full moon and the night sky.
"That's the perfect time to look for meteors," said Attwood.
The Draconid meteors will appear to originate from the constellation Draco the Dragon, in the north to northwest sky.
Of course, the main event is still the eclipse.
"I get kind of excited about them because they're really cool to watch," Attwood said. "You're seeing motion in the sky, you're seeing it slowly creep into the Earth's shadow."
The best part is that they don't require any special knowledge or equipment.
"Anyone who sees the moon can see the eclipse," he said.
And unlike solar eclipses, they can be viewed without any eye protection.
"It's perfectly safe to look at an eclipse of the moon with your regular eyes or binoculars."
At the Sydney Observatory in Australia, whoops of joy erupted as the moon made a brief appearance.
"Very spectacular," Sydney Observatory astronomer Geoff Wyatt said. "The cloud certainly got in the way, but we've seen it during totality and of course that's always the highlight — to see that lovely, reddish-brown color."
In Australia's capital, Canberra, Rachel Buckley watched the event from her driveway.
"It looked small, but very, very clear and really orange, I thought — blood orange," she said. "It was quite exciting, pretty amazing to see … because it's not very often you get to see that."
In Japan, clear skies turned partly cloudy as the eclipse progressed, but people who gathered on the rooftops of skyscrapers in Tokyo saw the moon turn a rusty brown when the clouds cleared.