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Last Updated on Friday, 16 April 2010 14:50
Published on Wednesday, 02 March 2005 00:00

On the night of Saturday 8th November and in the early hours of Sunday, people all over the UK will be able to see a total eclipse of the Moon if the weather is clear. Observers will notice Earth's shadow begin to creep over the Moon at about 11.30 p.m. The Moon is totally eclipsed for about 25 minutes between 1.06 and 01.31 a.m. and the event is finally over at 3.05 a.m.

"This is a natural spectacle anyone can safely see and enjoy," said Dr Jacqueline Mitton of the Royal Astronomical Society. "From the UK, the Moon will be easily visible at the time of this eclipse, high in the sky over the south-west. You don't need any equipment, though the view will be even more spectacular with a small telescope or binoculars."

Lunar eclipses can only occur at full Moon. They happen when the Sun, Earth and the Moon are in a near perfect line in space and the Moon travels through the long cone-shaped shadow Earth casts in space. The Moon does not become invisible during an eclipse, but appears a dark colour - usually a shade of brown, coppery-red or orange. This is because Earth's shadow is not completely black. Our atmosphere diverts some sunlight, most of it red light, into the shadow. That makes the shadow lighter round its edge than in the middle. The colour the Moon takes on varies from one eclipse to another according to how much dust there happens to be in the atmosphere.

At this particular eclipse, which is a relatively short one, the Moon skims through the edge of Earth's shadow. "We are not expecting the Moon to become very dark during this eclipse," says Jacqueline Mitton, "and it is likely to have a bright rim at its southern edge, which will only just be inside the shadow."

Lunar eclipses are a fascinating and beautiful phenomenon, and no two are quite alike, but they are of no real scientific importance in astronomical research.


  1. On the evening of 8 November, the full Moon rises at about 4.15 p.m. in London. It sets at 7.30 a.m. the next morning. It will be in constellation Aries.
  2. The entire eclipse is visible from Europe, north and west Africa and some eastern parts of north and south America. No eclipse will be visible from Australia, New Zealand, Japan and other parts of the far east. Regions in between will experience part of the eclipse around moonrise or moonset.
  3. The last lunar eclipse fully visible from the UK was on 9 January 2001. An eclipse on 16 May this year was partly visible from the UK at the time of moonset. The next two lunar eclipses fully visible from the UK are on 28 October 2004 and 3 March 2007.
  4. Two weeks after this lunar eclipse, on 23 November, there is a total eclipse of the Sun visible only from Antarctica.


  1. Sky and Telescope magazine has made available on its web site graphics, photographs and an animation, which are available free to the media, subject to the conditions imposed by Sky and Telescope. See
  2. High-quality copyright photographs are also available from

Contact Fred Espenak (at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) for all uses of these images.


More technical information about this particular eclipse, and eclipses in general, is available from


Date: 31 October 2003

Issued by Jacqueline Mitton, RAS Press Officer.