General · 8th October 2014
Amended from the CBC website
(Note: Thanks to photographer Will Lavigne for the great image!)
The full moon darkened and grew reddish in the early hours of this morning, during a total lunar eclipse that may have also made a meteor shower more visible.
The edge of the Earth's shadow began to pass over October's full moon, traditionally called the hunter's moon, at 1:15 a.m. PT. It covered the moon for a total lunar eclipse starting at 3:15 a.m. PT and lasting 59 minutes.
The reason the moon turns reddish during a lunar eclipse is that during the event, the Earth's shadow blocks almost all sunlight from hitting the moon. The exception is a small amount of light bent around the Earth by its atmosphere.
The atmosphere scatters most of the blue light, leaving only the red to hit the moon — causing it to appear red. It's the same reason why the sky is blue and why the sunset is red.
The amount of red colour depends on the weather in the part of the atmosphere the light is passing through. If it's clear, the moon will be brighter and redder, but if it's stormy and cloudy, the moon will be darker and more brownish.
The final two total lunar eclipses of this tetrad will take place next April 4 and September 28.
"It's perfectly safe to look at an eclipse of the moon with your regular eyes or binoculars," said J. Randy Attwood, Royal Astronomical Society of Canada's executive director
This particular lunar eclipse offered skywatchers an additional treat, by bringing out the meteors of the Draconid meteor shower, expected to peak last night. The annual fall meteor shower produces relatively few meteors compared with the summer's Perseids, and a full moon can wash out most of them. But an eclipse temporarily darkens the full moon and the night sky.
"That's the perfect time to look for meteors," said Attwood.
The Draconid meteors appeared to originate from the constellation Draco the Dragon, in the north to northwest sky.
Of course, the main event was still the eclipse.