Sky Gazers Treated to Lunar Eclipse Overnight

The only lunar eclipse of the year began on Monday night.

ByABC News
December 20, 2010, 10:48 AM

Dec. 21, 2010— -- In the only lunar eclipse of 2010, sky gazers were treated to a rare sight overnight.

Barring cloudy weather, astronomy enthusiasts and sky gazers across North America were dazzled by the first lunar eclipse to fall on the same day as the winter solstice in 372 years.

A lunar eclipse takes place when the sun, Earth and moon are all perfectly aligned with the Earth in the middle. When the moon passes behind the Earth, the sun's rays are blocked from striking the moon. This can only occur when the moon is full.

If the sky was clear, experts said the moon would appear to have a reddish glow.

However, the rainy weather made it difficult for some on the West Coast to view it late Monday night.

As the moon moves deeper into Earth's shadow, indirect sunlight passes through Earth's atmosphere, casting an orange and red hue over the moon.

Unlike a solar eclipse, which can only be seen for a few moments from any specific spot, a lunar eclipse can be viewed for several hours. It is also safe to view a lunar eclipse without special glasses or equipment.