Yesterday’s total lunar eclipse moves through its three stages between 4.30am and 5.30am.
Yesterday’s total lunar eclipse moves through its three stages between 4.30am and 5.30am. Maidenwell Astronomical Observatory

Early risers over the moon

IT was an ungodly hour and a little bit chilly, but those hardy souls who were up for yesterday’s lunar eclipse were well-rewarded.

With only light cloud, viewing conditions were favourable across most of the Northern Rivers when the eclipse began at 4.30am and moved into totality an hour later.

From 5.30am, the moon was completely immersed in the earth’s shadow and glowed a deep chocolate red. It faded from view but remained in shadow as the sun rose.

Veet Karen watched it from her balcony in Mullumbimby: “It was a good view, it clouded over a bit, but it was still spectacular,” she said.

North Coast astronomer Dave Reneke said he was surprised at how deep the red was. He put it down to the volcanic ash in the atmosphere.

“Normally it glows a cherry pink, but this time it was missing.”

He said the appearance of a lunar eclipse varied depending on how much dust and clouds were present in the atmosphere at the time.

Mr Reneke said the totality of the eclipse lasted for about 100 minutes, which was rare.

“You don’t usually get that length of time with the moon immersed so deeply in the earth’s shadow.”

Ocean Shores-based astronomer Philip Hood watched the eclipse with about 12 other people at the Devine’s Hill lookout at Ocean Shores.

“We didn’t need to be there, we could have seen it from our backyard, but we didn’t know what sort of a view we’d get of the western sky,” he said.

He and his partner Marie, who run monthly star-gazing nights at Brunswick Heads, took binoculars and a computer to help others see and understand what was happening.

This was the first early morning eclipse he had seen and viewing conditions were better than many of the previous events he had witnessed.

“We just had a few clouds come over for a few minutes,” he said.

The next lunar eclipse is due in December and is expected to be much lighter and brighter.

A total solar eclipse will occur in November 2012. It will be best viewed form Cairns.



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