Sky gazers in Americas treated to lunar eclipse

Tuesday 15 April 2014 19.20
A total lunar eclipse has taken place
A total lunar eclipse has taken place

A total lunar eclipse has taken place, with sky gazers in the Americas getting the best views.

As the Earth's sunset-hued shadow fell across the moon, its colour changed to bright orange.

The first phase, known as a penumbral eclipse, began at around 7am Irish time, while the total lunar eclipse started just after 8am and lasted for a little over 20 minutes.

The entire event was visible from North and South America, but sky watchers in northern and eastern Europe, eastern Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia were out of luck, because the moon had set.

Eclipses occur two or three times per year when the sun, Earth and the full moon line up so that the moon passes through Earth's shadow.

It is the first of four consecutive phenomena of this kind this year and next, a series astronomers call a tetrad.

The last time a tetrad took place was in 2003-2004, with the next predicted for 2032-2033. In total, the 21st century will see eight tetrads.

The year's second total lunar eclipse will take place on 8 October, with the tetrad's remaining two expected on 4 April and 28 September of next year.

In some religious circles, this tetrad has particular significance since it coincides with important Jewish holidays - Passover this year and next and the Feast of Tabernacles in October 2014 and September 2015.