x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Lunar eclipse turns moon blood red

Stargazers turn out in force for a 'perfect' view of the final lunar eclipse visible from the Emirates for three years.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates-December 10, 2011: View of Lunar Eclipse from Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi . ( Satish Kumar / The National )
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates-December 10, 2011: View of Lunar Eclipse from Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi . ( Satish Kumar / The National )

Stargazers were treated to a rare celestial event last night as the moon turned blood red during the last full lunar eclipse the region will see for three years.

Astronomers and onlookers gazed at the sky for more than three hours, from when the moon first became visible about 5.30pm until the dying moments of the eclipse, about 8.30pm.

Hasan Al Hariri, the head of the Dubai Astronomy Group, said weather conditions and visibility were perfect for the event.

"Apart from the eclipse, the constellations are very clear and we can see the Gemini and Pegasus constellations perfectly," Mr Al Hariri said.

He said the moon was brighter than expected: "It was full, red and looked fantastic."

Mr Al Hariri said more than 100 people, many carrying telescopes, turned up to see the eclipse at the Zubair camp in rural Sharjah, chosen because it is away from the distracting effects of urban light pollution.

"The atmosphere was amazing," he added.

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth passes between the sun and the moon.

The moon falls into the Earth's shadow, but indirect sunlight continues to illuminate the moon, turning it a dramatic shade of red.

Stargazers and amateur astronomers can next look forward to the Geminids meteor shower that will be visible in the UAE's sky from 8pm on Wednesday until 2am on Thursday.

"It's debris left over from a comet falling on the Earth," Mr Al Hariri said. "It'll be like a small firework display."

Meteor showers are not uncommon but Wednesday night will leave a lasting impression on stargazers if the weather conditions are right.

"This will be a big one," Mr Al Hariri said.

eharnan@thenational.ae