STAR-GAZERS have a treat in store at the end of the week.
On Saturday evening, they will be able to witness a partial eclipse of the full Moon.
Slightly more than half of the Moon will go into the Earth's inner shadow – a gradual process that is a little like taking small bites out of a cookie,according to leading Australian astronomer David Reneke.
During a lunar eclipse, the Moon usually turns a coppery or orange colour, Mr Reneke said.
Although this would not occur during Saturday's partial eclipse, ‘there will be a substantial darkening of part of the Moon', he said.
Mr Reneke said people in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales would have the best view, and should try to start watching at the early stages at 8.16pm.
The most impressive part is when the Moon's leading edge enters the Earth's shadow, and the eclipse begins, he said.
“Mid-eclipse will be around 9.38pm and by 11pm it will all be over for Eastern Australia,” he said. “Lunar eclipses, either partial or full, are one of the most spectacular sights in astronomy and one not to be missed.”
The eclipses occur when the Earth gets between the sun and the Moon, casting a shadow.
Unlike solar eclipses, they are safe to watch with the naked eye.
“It isn't even necessary to use a telescope, but if you have a pair of binoculars they will help magnify the view and make the event just that much easier to see,” Mr Reneke said.
The eclipse is likely to be ‘really quite a captivating event to watch because the shape that you'll see is quite often the crescent shape kids draw when they're drawing a Moon – like a circle – with a bite out of it.”
Mr Reneke said the only possible drawback was the possibility of cloudy weather – and that has been forecast along the Eastern seaboard for Saturday.
The eclipse will be also seen in New Zealand, parts of South-East Asia and the Americas.
The lunar display comes in the same week as the winter solstice for those in the Southern Hemisphere.
Yesterday marked the shortest day of the year.
However, the actual date differs slightly every year and June 21 is not necessarily the day on which the Sun is at its furthest north for the year.
Nor does it mean the beginning of a new season – as is commonly recognised, the coldest days of winter are yet to come.
But as the pagans knew, and celebrated, it marks the time when days start to grow longer.