Celestial spectacle: When moon turned red before disappearing

The Earth completely casts its shadow over the moon in a total lunar eclipse. (AP)

The moon turned a shade of red on Wednesday diving into the darkest centre of the earth's shadow in the century's longest and darkest lunar eclipse.

This beautiful spectacle was visible all throughout the country, with special arrangements made by the Dubai Astronomy Group (DAG) at  Omar Bin Khattab Model School in Deira, Dubai.

Watch some of the breathtaking images here.

While a whole lot of people turned up there with their young ones to watch the spectacle through the many telescopes that the DAG had specially installed, many others didn't need the equipment and just gazed at the night sky with naked eyes, soaking in the natural phenomenon and enjoying its beauty.

Unlike solar eclipses, lunar eclipses are safe to watch with the naked eye.

The century's longest total solar eclipse lasted 100 minutes, starting at just before 10.30pm and ending at around 1am. The year's first total eclipse of the moon lasted an unusually long time, a rare celestial treat for a wide swath of the globe.

The Moon plunged deeply into earth's shadow, passing almost directly through its center. Consequently, totality [or when the moon was totally eclipsed] lasted a whopping 100 minutes - the longest umbral immersion since July 2000, and nearly 40 minutes longer than the well-observed lunar eclipse last December 21st.

As the eclipse started, the moon became disappearing bit by bit from the bottom, as if someone was biting into a heavenly apple. Wednesday's lunar spectacle was visible from start to finish from eastern Africa, central Asia, the Middle East and western Australia.

The period when Earth's shadow completely blocks the moon - known as totality - lasted a whopping 1 hour and 40 minutes. The last time the moon was covered for this long was in July 2000, when it lasted 7 minutes longer than that.

The full moon normally glows from reflected sunlight. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon glides through the long shadow cast by the Earth and is blocked from the sunlight that illuminates it.

As the moon plunged deeper into the Earth's shadow, the disk appeared to gradually change colour, turning from silver to orange or deep red. This is because some indirect sunlight still reaches the moon after passing through the Earth's atmosphere, which scatters blue light. Only red light strikes the moon, giving it an eerie crimson hue.

In case you missed this one, you will now have to wait till the year 2141 to see an eclipse of this duration. The next total lunar eclipse, however, will fall on December 10 this year with best viewing from Asia and Australia. The moon will be completely blotted out for 51 minutes.

Images: Colourful lunar spectacle

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