Moon to turn red in rare eclipse
A rare total lunar eclipse will turn the moon red in the early hours of Thursday.
The total eclipse will be visible between 3.01am and 3.52am, with the partial eclipse beginning at 1.43am and finishing at 5.09am.
A total eclipse occurs when the full Moon moves into the Earth's shadow and although it becomes dimmed, it can still be seen because it is lit by the sunlight passing through the Earth's atmosphere.
Stronger atmospheric scattering of blue light means that the light that reaches the lunar surface is predominantly red in colour so observers on Earth see a Moon that may be brick-coloured, rusty, blood-red or sometimes dark grey, depending on terrestrial conditions on the night.
Dr Robert Massey at the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) said: "As astronomers, we like to draw attention to lunar eclipses because they are extremely beautiful and very rare. In fact, the next time we will see a lunar eclipse in the UK will be 2015.
"It is a bright white, pearly colour which goes to a deep red colour and that's why it is so spectacular. It is like a red jaw in the sky and the view is almost as if the planet Mars is a hundred times closer.
"The great thing about a lunar eclipse is that it is absolutely safe to enjoy.
"So I would encourage everyone to go out and enjoy it - even for a short time because the effect is really dramatic."
According to the RAS, this will be the last chance to watch a total lunar eclipse from the UK until September 28, 2015.
Kevin Yates from the National Space Centre in Leicester said: "It is amazing how many people have never witnessed one. In ancient writings they have referred to the moon turning blood red and that has been interpreted in many ways so it has a certain appeal."