Skywatchers hope for clear night

SKYWATCHERS are hoping the clouds clear enough on Saturday night for them to see a spectacular celestial event.

Alloway Observatory director Mac Jonsen said a lunar eclipse, during which the moon would turn red, would begin on Saturday evening.

"It will begin on Saturday about 11pm, when the moon starts to move into the Earth's shadow," he said.

"It will be fully in the Earth's shadow from about 12.04am, and the whole thing finishes about 12.56am."

Mr Jonsen said while lunar eclipses were not particularly rare, Saturday's event promised to be a good one.

"You'll see the moon going red; it changes its appearance altogether," he said.

Mr Jonsen said he would be one of the people hoping to watch the eclipse, provided the weather was right.

"It looks like we might have cloud, but you've got to hope for the best," he said.

Astronomer Dave Reneke said the copper colour was due to sunlight being refracted by the Earth's atmosphere.

Airborne ash from eruptions of volcanoes or bushfires around the world, coupled with existing airborne pollution, usually added to the darkening effect.

"Lunar eclipses are one of the most spectacular sights in astronomy and one not to be missed," he said.

Eclipses occur when the Earth gets between the sun and the moon, casting a shadow.

Unlike solar eclipses, lunar eclipses are perfectly safe to watch with the naked eye.

The next lunar eclipse is expected in 2014.

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