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Red moonlight to bathe UK

Brits to enjoy lunar eclipse, weather permitting

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Those Brits lucky enough to be standing under clear skies tonight* will be able to enjoy a total lunar eclipse which will turn the Moon a delicious shade of red.

By the time the sun sets in the UK, the partial phase of the eclipse will be well under way: it begins at 19:48 BST, with totality occuring at 20:52 and lasting until 22:08, BST. The eclipse will be visible from Europe, Africa, South America, Australsia and much of Asia, but not from North America according to the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS).

A lunar eclipse only happens when the Sun, Earth and Moon are in alignment, with the Earth casting a shadow onto the moon. Fortunately, this doesn't totally black the moon out. Instead, the Moon looks reddish, reflecting the light refracted by Earth's atmosphere back down to us. The colour of each eclipse varies slightly, depending on the amount of dust in the Earth's atmosphere.

Dr Jacqueline Mitton of RAS said: "If the weather is kind to us, this could be a very interesting sight, with the eclipsed Moon becoming more and more obvious as the sky gradually darkens after sunset and the Moon gets higher in the sky."

The next lunar eclipse visible from the UK is on 28 October 2004. ®

*Not in this part of the UK then, unless things really improve between now and this evening.

Related links

Telescopes at the ready, it's Astronomy Day
Boffins spot planetoid at 8bn miles
Moon-sized diamond found in space

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