- The moon turning a blood-red color during a total lunar eclipse in Sydney, Australia, on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011. (Rob Griffith) (Photo: Associated Press)
Like a giant eyeball vigorously poked, the Moon on Saturday slowly turned from ivory white to a vicious, bloodshot-red hue. It was the last total lunar eclipse until April 2014, and skywatchers did not drop the ball on documenting this source of everlasting astonishment.
The color of the Moon was more coppery than earthy borscht due to the relatively clear atmosphere. (Particulate matter pumped out by volcanoes and forest fires can make lunar eclipses seem dark.) East Coasters were left in the dark this time around, but insomniacs on the Pacific Coast, as well as folks in Asia and Australia, caught the full show.
Here was the scene early on Sunday at the Sydney Observatory in Australia. A woman has erected a telescope to watch the moon redden over the Harbour Bridge:
AP Photo / Rob Griffith
And the Moon looks positively draped in crimson velvet in this view of the north tower of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge on Saturday:
AP Photo / Ben Margot
More thrilling footage of the obscured Moon is posted at SpaceWeather. But amateur astronomers weren't the only people scurrying around like disturbed fireants to document this final eclipse of the year. At NASA, scientists were using the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to figure out how quickly the surface of Earth's ghostly hitchhiker cools down during an eclipse. With that data they hope to get better intel on what kind of rocks litter the Moon's surface. You can read more about that minimission at NASA.