Nasa calls lunar eclipse a ‘chronicity not a rarity’

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption This composite photo of a partial lunar eclipse shows Earth, the moon and the sun

Moon watchers around the world have been startled by an eerie light display in the night sky on Friday.

As the planet transits the earth in front of the sun’s heat, the moon falls into the umbra – the darkest part of the Earth’s shadow.

This is the shortest lunar eclipse since 1982, lasting only three hours and 41 minutes.

There are no serious health risks from the eclipse, experts say.

Most live long lives and their bodies will not feel any effect of the rare event.

The sun doesn’t set or rise during the eclipse, but rather is immersed in the Earth’s shadow until it sets at 23:44 GMT and rises again at 04:54 GMT.

The umbra of the shadow is thicker at 17.5° across, than the zone of “edge of shadow” about 12.5° across, called the penumbra.

Image copyright NASA Image caption The position of the eclipse’s umbra on Friday will depend on your local altitude, visibility and the time zone.

The latest partial eclipse was seen in South America and Latin America and Asia.

The eclipse reached Europe from around 23:40 GMT.

Image copyright EPA Image caption Meteors were spotted from the Indonesian islands of Mentawai and Sumatra, in a partial lunar eclipse.

In the UK, a slim sliver of the eclipse was visible before it was eclipsed by the sun’s rays.

‘Not a rarity but a peculiarity’

“There’s nothing ever that falls that happens in your lifetime,” Jessica Metzger, vice president for education at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, told BBC News.

She added that sometimes, such as on Friday, there is only one eclipse. This is because the sun and the moon are at different times of the year, so it gets lost in the line of sight.

Another, with one exception, she said, was only witnessed by historians and astronomers for a fraction of a second.

“You see it on the internet, but for something to have an affect on the lives of hundreds of millions of people, for these things to have any effect, then it’s a rarity. It’s a peculiarity,” she said.

Ashley Ford, a curator of astronomy at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, told BBC News that the eclipses were much less common than the rising and setting of the sun.

Image copyright NASA Image caption Eclipses occur when the Earth orbits directly in front of the sun

He added that he wanted to play down the value of the event.

“I see this as kind of a filler event and if this is the only eclipse this year or next year, I’ll be very happy,” he said.

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