Thousands watch lunar eclipse from NZ (+photos)

By Hayden Donnell

The eclipse as seen from the Stardome in Auckland. Photo / Kevin Ng
The eclipse as seen from the Stardome in Auckland. Photo / Kevin Ng

Thousands of people turned their eyes to the sky for the first lunar eclipse visible from New Zealand in three years last night.

The copper-coloured moon was visible for short periods despite a front that brought clouds over much of the North Island.

That was a relief for the 1500 people who turned out to an eclipse viewing evening hosted by Stardome Observatory in Auckland.

Spokeswoman Gina Dellabarca says the appearance of the eclipsed moon at 9.30pm was met with cheers.

"It seemed like it was going to be an anti-climax for a while. When it finally appeared there were cheers and sighs of relief."

Queues of people took the opportunity to look at the moon through the telescopes set up in the Stardome courtyard, she says.

It was visible for half an hour before disappearing behind the clouds again.

Others gathered on Auckland's volcanic cones to catch a glimpse of the eclipse.

In a lunar eclipse, the moon is obscured as it passes through the Earth's shadow.

A total lunar eclipse only occurs when there is a full moon.

Last night's eclipse began as the sun set at 8:36pm and ended about 11pm.

Stardome astronomer Dr Grant Christie says the eclipse was special for the fact the setting sun and the eclipsed moon could be seen in the sky at the same time, he says.

"The interesting thing about this one is you can see the setting sun in the west and you'll be standing on the object that's making the shadow on the moon."

The last total lunar eclipse visible from New Zealand was on February 20, 2008.

Another total eclipse will take place on June 15 next year.

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