x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

All eyes turn skywards to see dark side of the moon

Rare lunar event attracts enthusiasts in Dubai and Abu Dhabi

Last night's rare lunar event attracted enthusiasts across the UAE. Click here to see our stunning sequence of images capturing one of the longest full lunar eclipses of the century.
Last night's rare lunar event attracted enthusiasts across the UAE. Click here to see our stunning sequence of images capturing one of the longest full lunar eclipses of the century.

DUBAI // A rare lunar eclipse awed stargazers last night by turning the moon a deep crimson.

Onlookers at an amateur astronomy event gasped in astonishment as the Earth's shadow fell on the moon, turning the satellite an eerie shade of blood red.

Hasan al Hariri, the head of Dubai Astronomy Group, busied himself at Omar Bin Al Khattab Model School in Abu Hail explaining the science behind eclipses while dispelling some of the myths around the phenomenon.

"As Muslims, we don't have any superstitious beliefs about the eclipse," said Mr Hariri. "Some people say it will cause a catastrophe on earth, but that's not scientific."

Prayers started at 10.30pm, about the time the partial eclipse started, as part of a tradition for the event. About 200 people from the astronomy group turned up and formed orderly queues at the telescopes to catch a glimpse of the eclipse. Children as young as five enthused to their parents about how the surface of the moon looked like "cheese". The moon was fully eclipsed just before 11.30.

Elsewhere, pregnant Hindu women were advised to stay indoors in case they harm their child.

"Pregnant women should not sleep between 6pm to 6am," said Dr LN Acharya, the head priest at the Hindu temple in Dubai.

"She should not also not work or eat, instead she should pray to her God. Otherwise the child's weight in the womb may be affected."

The eclipse began slowly at 10.22pm and ended at just after 2 this morning.

Three telescopes were set up by the Dubai Astronomy Group to monitor stars not normally visible because of light pollution from the sun.

But only a smattering of people from the 2,500-member group attended, which Mr al Hariri put down to a conscious decision to send invitations at the last minute.

"We announced it quite late because we didn't want people to get frustrated in the heat," he said. "The more people we have, the longer the queue will be for the telescopes."

A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon, Earth and sun align, and the Earth casts its shadow on the moon.

Light with low bandwidths is filtered out by the earth's atmosphere and only red light gets through.

National Geographic Al Arabiya set up a top-of-the-range GPS telescope on the Abu Dhabi Corniche to give the public a chance to look at the stars and the moon in detail.

"This is one of the most unique celestial events this year," said Ahmed Maklad, the magazine's marketing manager. "We're doing this free of charge because our goal is to educate our audience about the universe, the world and the space around them."

mcroucher@thenational.ae

To view the stages of the eclipse, go to thenational.ae/multimedia