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Weather forces Britons on St Edith’s day to brave rain and severe tailbacks to see a partial lunar eclipse
A partial lunar eclipse visible across much of the world was an early contender for the planet’s most spectacular sight, delivering a deep, copper-coloured shadow that hovered in the heart of the earth.
Saturday’s partial eclipse – coupled with a stunning display of stars and moons in the night sky – was accessible to anyone who could brave the roads and highways.
An early moth perches beside a branch of the elder tree in London’s Embankment Gardens on Saturday. Photograph: Sean Smith for the Guardian
Visitors to more remote parts of the world, in places such as Antarctica and the eastern Pacific Ocean, were more likely to have to contend with limited or no access to gas and electricity.
A woman walks in a forest in Waiheke, New Zealand. Photograph: Steven Mullis/EPA
As the sun made its climb and set across the eastern hemisphere of the globe – beginning at about 10.11am, the point when the Earth’s shadow blocked the moon’s light – many saw a spectacle they were unlikely to forget.
Lunar eclipse – in pictures Read more
Visitors at the Met Office’s headquarters in Oxfordshire could see its bright red edge accentuated by a partial sunset, and others in London said the sight was nothing short of phenomenal.
“It’s absolutely beautiful,” said Lucy Williams, 26, from Holywell, Cumbria. “It definitely puts the volume up a bit.”
Sky enthusiast Emily Parr, 26, said she was surprised at how well the weather held up.
“I thought it was going to be overcast and it isn’t,” she said. “You can actually see very faint stars in the distance.”
Barry Osborne from Watford was quick to capture the beauty of it all on camera.
“It was incredible,” he said. “It’s the first time I’ve seen a lunar eclipse. It was well worth the drive.”
Many of the more remote areas of the world were affected by power cuts and dark skies, and Guardian Travel contributor Mark Clements (@Mark_Clements_Etc) described darkness so pervasive around the South Pole that Vicky added: “It was like we were in a film.”
The partial eclipse was visible in western Europe, parts of central and northern Africa, the Middle East, the North and South Pacific, and the eastern most point of India.
A partial lunar eclipse is a celestial rarity: it typically occurs about every 18 months, on the side of the earth opposite from the sun.
A lunar eclipse is produced by the Earth’s shadow blocking the light that reaches the moon. In this case, the sun was doing its best to obscure the area of Earth’s shadow that would reach the lunar surface.
The four phases of the lunar eclipse:
Centre point. This line of the earth’s shadow is crossed by the sun, which shines across its right-hand edge.
“Mid-star” phase. The shadow remains visible as it sets, which shines an orange or red glow onto the horizon.
“Immediate eclipse”. This phase is the darkest and sharpest, in which the totality lasts for a few minutes before fading again. The event ends with a final “sunset” ring.
“Post eclipse”. The sun is rising now, and the slender ring is vanishing in the east, fading to a steady presence and ending the dark part of the eclipse.
“Full eclipse”. This stage – now in the twilight – is very short-lived and opaque, in which just the outer edge of the shadow still is visible.
During the eclipse, the moon will appear blackened and in the shadow. Astronomers consider a partial eclipse to be a success if it is undetectable or relatively close to that, and because of its short duration.
A lunar eclipse normally occurs about every 18 months. Photograph: Alamy
The next partial lunar eclipse is due in August 2022, and if the weather in 2022 is a little clearer, an occasion for the whole country to come together in stunning front of the TV.