Lunar eclipse excites stargazers

The lunar eclipse at the Parkes Dish. Photographed by Operation Scientist of the CSIRO Parkes Observatory, John Sarkissian.By Dominic Geiger

Extraordinarily clear conditions gave astronomers and stargazers of the central west the opportunity to marvel at a blood red lunar eclipse early last Thursday morning.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the earth, sun and moon perfectly align, with the earth’s atmosphere reflecting the sun’s light to create a deep red shadow on the moon.

Condobolin stargazers were able to view the eclipse between 4:22am and 7:14am.

Operations Scientist at the CSIRO Parkes Observatory, John Sarkissian, said “glorious” weather conditions had allowed many people in the central west to see the eclipse from the moment it began to just before the moon finally set.

“There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and no breeze; it was perfect eclipse weather,” he said.

“[The moon] was a deep red colour; I was surprised how dark it appeared.”

John said he had positioned himself to capture the eclipsed moon setting behind the Parkes Dish, but as the sky brightened, it became increasingly hard to see the moon at all.

“About 25 minutes before it was due to set, I lost it altogether,” he said.

John said people who missed this eclipse shouldn’t worry, as there will be another one in December.

“The next one will also be at a much more reasonable hour and will be higher in the sky,” he said.

“People in the central west should be able to see the entire show as the earth’s shadow passes over the moon.”

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