Australia witnesses lunar eclipse

2012-06-04 16:02

Sydney - The first partial lunar eclipse of the year provided a dramatic scene over Sydney late on Monday, with a clear moon visible over the city as the event unfolded.

A partial eclipse occurs when Earth slides between the Moon and the Sun, casting a grey shadow over its satellite.

"It does look a bit odd because it's not like a normal crescent moon," said Jonti Horner from the astrophysics department of Sydney's University of New South Wales.

"It looks like a bite has been taken out of the moon," he said as he watched the sky.

"A partial eclipse of the moon is the kind of thing that happens every few years but it's still worth looking at because of its astronomical interest," said Fred Watson, astronomer-in-charge of the Anglo-Australian Observatory in western New South Wales.

Double show

Monday's eclipse is part of a rare double show which includes the transit of Venus - one of the most eagerly awaited events in the astronomical calendar.

Sky watchers in the Pacific and East Asia are set to have the best view of the eclipse.

Weather permitting, most of Australia, all of New Zealand, the nations of the South Pacific and Papua New Guinea will see it in full, and Southeast Asia, Eastern China, Japan and Korea will get most of it.

It will not be visible in Europe or Africa, but people in western North America and Mexico will see it at the end stages when the moon sets.

"Actual eclipses are relatively common, there are usually about two a year," Watson said.

"But what makes them kind of rare is that they are not all visible from everywhere, and in particular solar eclipses really are only visible from a very small part of the Earth's surface."

On Tuesday, North America will get to see the early stage of the transit of Venus which occurs when Venus passes between Earth and the Sun, appearing under magnification as a small black dot that trots across the solar face.

The next transit will not take place until 2117.

Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific, Japan and Korea, as well as most of China and much of Southeast Asia, will be able to see the entire transit, lasting six hours, 40 minutes, in what will be Wednesday morning their time.

South Asia, the Middle East and Europe will get the end part, when they enter sunrise on Wednesday.