Lunar eclipse for sky watchers


Millions of people across the earth gazed skywards today to see the first total lunar eclipse for nearly three years.

The moon started to move into the earth’s shadow at 6.32am Irish time, on what is the day of the winter solstice.

A lucky chosen few were at the passage tomb at Newgrange in Co Meath this morning to witness the eclipse and the winter equinox. However, heavy cloud prevented the sun from shining through the lightbox into the ancient tomb's chamber.

The eclipse started at about 7.40am when the moon was very near setting. Mid-eclipse occurred at 8.17am.

For locations Northern Ireland, totality was entirely visible, but the moon was low down after the time of greatest eclipse.

During totality, the moon tracks through the northern part of the earth’s dark umbral shadow, so the southern half appears considerably darker than the northern part.

The brightness of the eclipse depends on the conditions in the earth’s upper atmosphere through which all light falling on to the shadowed moon has to pass.

The next lunar eclipse visible from Ireland will not be until 2015, according to the Irish Astronomical Association.