In a subtle but stunning prelude to the Great American Total Solar Eclipse of Aug. 21, a partial lunar eclipse graced the night skies over Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia on Monday (Aug. 7).
Lunar eclipses occur when the Earth is positioned in between the sun and the moon, casting a reddish-brown shadow on the lunar surface. Monday's lunar eclipse was only a partial eclipse, so Earth's shadow darkened only a portion of the moon. The total solar eclipse of Aug. 21, however, will be a far more spectacular event.
Because of how the moon orbits the Earth, lunar eclipses always coincide with a full moon, and solar eclipses coincide with the new moon. The two types of eclipses always come in pairs, with one preceding the other by two weeks.
Skywatchers in North America who are in the path of the upcoming total solar eclipse didn't get to see Monday's lunar eclipse, because the moon was below the horizon at the time. However, skywatchers and astronomers in the East captured plenty of amazing photos and videos of the astronomical event to share online. [Shadowy Moon: Penumbral Lunar Eclipse Photos]
In Amman, Jordan, astrophotographer Zaid Abbadi brought his camera and coffee mug outside to photograph the lunar eclipse as the moon rose high in the evening sky. The moon appears slightly yellow closer to the horizon due to the scattering of light in Earth's atmosphere. As the moon begins to shine brighter and whiter, Earth's shadow begins to hide a chunk of the lunar surface.
The same atmospheric effect that makes the moon appear darker near the horizon is also responsible for colorful sunsets. During total lunar eclipses, it gives Earth's shadow a reddish tint on the surface of the moon.
Andrea Muscat, a photographer and meteorologist on the island of Gozo in the Maltese archipelago of the Mediterranean Sea, photographed a more orange-hued moon during Monday's partial lunar eclipse.
"The event lasted for just over one hour, starting at moonrise," Muscat told Space.com in an email. "The fact that it occurred at moonrise meant that we were entertained to [an] amazing view of the rising red moon being eclipsed by the Earth’s shadow."
In Italy, astrophysicist Gianluca Masi of the Virtual Telescope Project broadcasted a live view of the full moon rising over Rome as the partial lunar eclipse took place. This screenshot of the Virtual Telescope Project's webcast was taken about 7:30 p.m. local time (1830 GMT), less than an hour after the moon emerged from the horizon and just 10 minutes after the peak of the lunar eclipse.