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Sky-watchers enjoy lunar eclipse

Moon watchers in western America, Hawaii, Australia and parts of Asia have been treated to a rare celestial phenomenon - a total lunar eclipse.

For 51 minutes starting at 6:06 a.m. PST (1406 GMT), the Earth's shadow completely blocked the moon.

The moon took on a reddish glow, as some indirect sunlight continued to reach it after passing through the Earth's atmosphere.

Since the atmosphere scatters blue light, only red light strikes the moon, giving it an eerie crimson hue.

At the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, some 300 people, many clutching coffee cups in the frigid morning air, sat with blankets and chairs on the observatory's great lawn.

Perched on a slope north of downtown near the Hollywood sign, the property offers clear views of the sky. Observatory officials alerted the crowd when the eclipse began and spontaneous applause erupted when the celestial event ended.

"It's really exciting to be out here. It's really just a beautiful image...," Alex Padron, part of an amateur astronomy group, told KTLA-TV.

In China, stargazers observed the moon from the Planetarium in Beijing and had the best view of a total lunar eclipse in 10 years, according to the China Astronomical Observatory. In Australia, people watched the eclipse from telescopes at the Sydney Observatory.

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon goes through the long shadow cast by the Earth and is blocked from the sunlight that illuminates it.

The last total lunar eclipse was on June 15 although that was not visible from the United States. The next one is on April 15, 2014 and will be seen in the US.

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