Moon gazers were hard-pressed to catch a glimpse of this morning's partial lunar eclipse as cloud and rain covered parts of the country.

If the sky had been clear those who braved the early morning chill may have seen a moon that looked as if it had been dipped in red ink.

The partial eclipse happened in the early hours of this morning as the Earth travelled between the sun and the moon and cast a shadow on the lunar body.

Its expected climax about 6.20am would show the moon with a red tinge across part of its surface.

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Director of Otago Museum, astronomer Ian Griffin said yesterday it was only a partial eclipse so wouldn't be as dark as a full one, but would still be "fascinating".

"About a quarter of the moon should go a reddy colour or will certainly go dark and that's because the shadow of the Earth is on it."

Griffin has been up since 3am to see the eclipse begin, but said most people would likely only have seen something across the moon's surface from 5.20am.

This morning he showed on twitter a couple of snaps of the moon peeking out from behind the clouds.

Griffin said the eclipse was a result of the Earth's shadow being cast on the moon.

"During a lunar eclipse the Earth comes between the sun and moon and cuts off the light."

By 7.20 it will be all over as the moon begins to set.

The next partial lunar eclipse would be late July next year.

A total eclipse, where the whole moon was cast in the Earth's shadow, was also expected early next year.