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Delight and dread as UK stargazers sight supermoon

Published 28/09/2015

The moon rises over electricity pylons near Bath ahead of a lunar eclipse
The moon rises over electricity pylons near Bath ahead of a lunar eclipse

Stargazers across the UK have observed a blood red "supermoon" in the skies above Britain for the first time in 30 years.

The eerie light created from a lunar eclipse with the moon near to its closest point to the Earth delighted amateur astronomers and photographers, while filling others with dread.

Some religious groups and believers in astrology were convinced it is a sign that the End of Days is approaching.

The spectacle began to unfold from 1.10am in the UK, with the "total" phase - when the moon is completely in shadow - lasting from 3.11am to 4.24am. It was to go on until the moon emerged from the Earth's shadow at 6.24am.

When the moon is at perigee, its shortest distance from the Earth, it is 226,000 miles away and appears 14% larger and 30% brighter than when it is at its furthermost point.

The last time this coincided with a lunar eclipse, when the moon is covered by the Earth's shadow, was in 1982 and the event will not be repeated until 2033.

During a lunar eclipse, the moon turns a deep rusty red, due to sunlight being scattered by the Earth's atmosphere.

Through the ages, so-called "blood moons" have been viewed as ill omens by superstitious people.

Anyone staying up to see the red moon was in for a "quite an unusual sight", according to Society for Popular Astronomy vice president Robin Scagell.

Dozens of amateur photographers posted their best efforts on social media, although those taking pictures on their phones were mostly disappointed.

Lucy Carter, from London tweeted: "I saw it! And it was amazing! Trees blocking final moments of the eclipse now in SE26 so back to bed then ..."

Andy Stedman, also from London, posted: "Unless u have an amazing camera the only way to truly capture Supermoon is with your eyes in the moment. Something to think about ..."

Aislinn Pilia said: "London, a clear starry night and a gorgeous supermoon worth getting up for but now going back to bed lol."

Unlike with a solar eclipse, a lunar eclipse is completely safe to observe through binoculars or a small telescope.

Many believe this eclipse was significant as it marks the completion of an unusual line-up of four total eclipses at six-monthly intervals known as a "tetrad".

Texan pastor and author John Hagee says this has only happened three times in the past 500 years and claimed it is likely to herald a "hugely significant" world event.

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