Night a red shadow ate the moon

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 December, 2011, 12:00am


By 10.06pm, the moon was overhead and fully red. And on Tsim Sha Tsui's Avenue of Stars, necks were craned to capture the sight.

Hong Kong Space Museum staff set up more than 30 telescopes of different sizes for the hundreds wanting to view the lunar eclipse.

At six hours from beginning to end, it was the longest Hong Kong had seen since 2000. And they were lucky - the night was clear.

'Lunar eclipses are difficult to see in Hong Kong. It's sometimes very cloudy,' said Samuel Chui Chi-man, the museum's assistant curator.

The last time an eclipse occurred in Hong Kong, in June this year, he was in Sai Kung. But he caught only a glimpse of the moon then.

'It's an interesting sight,' he said. 'The moon gets bitten by red, then eaten.' But why is it red?

Issac Tham, six, gave his considered opinion. 'Because the moon is shy!' he joked. In fact, the moon turns red for the same reason sunsets are red.

During an eclipse, the earth is between the sun and moon so sunlight cannot reach the moon directly.

But it still finds its way to the moon by passing through the earth's atmosphere. Sunlight is made up of all colours, from blue to red, and the atmosphere scatters the blues and greens before it gets to the moon, leaving us to see red and orange.

For Gabriel Chan, it was his third lunar eclipse.

'I think it's a beautiful thing,' he said. 'I go every time.'

Hongkongers were fortunate to be able to catch the eclipse after dinner. In Europe, it was missed altogether in the bright of day.

And in the western United States, where the eclipse began before 5am, citizens were just waking up as Hong Kong skywatchers went to bed.