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Total lunar eclipse hits pre-dawn Southland

December 10, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
There was a total lunar eclipse on Saturday. Thousands of moon gazers were at Griffith Observatory, which opened up early for the event.

"I think a part of it is the momentous occasion of being able to see something so rare that happens in nature," said moon gazer Eric Garner. "I suppose on a more philosophical level, how long has mankind looked up at the sky for signs?"

"The objects you see live for billions and billions of years," said astronomer Bob Alborzian. "We are here not a wink of an eye. You have to have a sense of appreciation and respect for nature and the universe."

The eclipse- also known as selenehelion- began at 3:33 a.m. PT, but was too subtle for most people to notice. The total eclipse began at 6:06 a.m. and lasted for about 50 minutes.

A lunar eclipse happens when the Earth passes between the sun and the moon. The Earth blocks most of the light coming from the sun and stops that light from hitting the moon. But the longer wavelengths of red light from the sun make it through the Earth's atmosphere, which is why the moon appeared to be orange or a deep shade of red.

While everyone in the continental United States was able to see part of the eclipse, people on the West Coast had a better view.

Unlike solar eclipses, lunar eclipses are safe to look at with the naked eye. Saturday's lunar eclipse is the second and last of 2011. The first was in June.

The next lunar eclipse will be April 15, 2014.

See photos of the lunar eclipse throughout Southern California.

City News Service contributed to this story.


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