The window to see Saturday’s lunar eclipse was a narrow one. It was the shortest total eclipse any of us will see this century. Totality, when the moon sits in the earth’s shadow completely, lasted just 5 minutes.
Several photos caught the deep red hue of the total lunar eclipse. The photo below was taken by Zhao Hanrong (Xinhua Press). It’s a composite of the different phases of the lunar eclipse as the moon sits in the skies above Los Angeles.
Another photo taken over Shenzen City, China shows a deep red moon. (Credit: ImagineChina/CORBIS)
The best view of the moon came from the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. They trained their telescope on the moon during the whole eclipse. Watch a 1-minute timelapse of the four and a half hour event below.
Why is the Moon Red During a Lunar Eclipse?
In the video above, you’ll see the moon move into the Earth’s shadow. The part that is in the shadow appears totally dark. But, when totality occurs (moon sits completely in Earth’s darkest shadow) – it suddenly appears red. Why?
You can thank Earth’s atmosphere for the beautiful images above. A NASA article explains how sunlight ultimately reaches the moon despite being in Earth’s shadow.
During a total lunar eclipse, white sunlight hitting the atmosphere on the sides of the Earth gets absorbed and then radiated out (scattered). Blue-colored light is most affected. That is, the atmosphere filters out (scatters away) most of the blue-colored light. What’s left over is the orange- and red-colored light. This red-colored light passes through our atmosphere without getting absorbed and scattered, before the atmosphere bends it (refracts it) back out, projecting indirect, reddish light onto the Moon.
Here’s a NASA image that perfectly highlights how this works. It also shows the different stages of the moon entering Earth’s shadow (Penumbra and Umbra).
Mark your calendar for September 28th. That’s when the next total lunar eclipse will happen. This time, the eastern half of the U.S. will see the cosmic show.