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Star gazers on the east coast of the North Island have had the best view of the blood moon tonight, MetService says.

The lunar eclipse casts a red glow on the moon as the Earth passes between the moon and the sun.

Watch: NASA explains the blood moon

It's not often that we get a chance to see our planet's shadow, but a lunar eclipse gives us a fleeting glimpse. During these rare events, the full Moon rapidly darkens and then glows red as it enters the Earth's shadow. Though a lunar eclipse can be seen only at night, it's worth staying up to catch the show. Courtesy NASA Goddard

Skies were clear for the east of the country but cloud has ruined the party for many other areas, MetService meteorologist Frances Russell said.

"Probably parts of Hawkes Bay and the Wairarapa will probably be the clearest.''

However, some cloud could yet break during the evening, giving others a glimpse of the eclipse.

"There are a few gaps in the central North Island, south of Mt Ruapehu,'' she said.

It was the first of two lunar eclipses to be seen from New Zealand this year, with the second event happening around midnight on October 8.

Tonight's eclipse would be a family friendly affair, with many youngsters able to see the moon before bedtime, Stardome Observatory astronomy educator David Britten said.

"The big attraction is after dinner time and families can go out together and have a good look.''

Spectators were able to see the moon rise from 6pm.


It then moved within the Earth's shadow to be completely eclipsed by 7.08pm _ about 15 degrees above the eastern horizon.

The full eclipse was expected to last for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

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

Two shadows will cross the moon during the event _ the large penumbra (or ``almost-shadow''), which dims the moon, and the umbra, a smaller opaque shadow caused by the Earth blocking out the light from the sun to the moon.

The moon would appear blood red, Mr Britten said, but in built-up areas with artificial light, it would be a more bronze colour.

Read more:
'Blood moon' brings out lunar loonies


When, where to watch the total lunar eclipse - April 15, 2014:

* Penumbral eclipse begins: 4.55pm

* Partial eclipse begins: 5.59pm

* Full eclipse begins: 7.08pm

* Maximum eclipse: 7.46pm

* Full eclipse ends: 8.23pm

* Partial eclipse ends: 9.32pm

* Penumbral eclipse ends: 10.36pm

Best sightings:

* Tuesday's eclipse will be best seen from eastern beaches.

* It can be seen with the naked eye, but binoculars or telescopes will improve the view.

* Contact your local astronomical society or club for viewing details.

* In Auckland, the Stardome Observatory will be open.

- additional reporting Kurt Bayer.