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IMAGES: A stunning eclipse after 372 years

Last updated on: December 21, 2010 18:47 IST

IMAGES: A stunning eclipse after 372 years

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After a wait of 372 years, sky gazers were in for a special celestial treat when the winter solstice coincided with total lunar eclipse on Tuesday.

The last time the two astronomical events coincided was on December 21, 1638.


Image: A combination of photographs show the gradual lunar eclipse ending with a total eclipse as seen over the skies in Great Falls, Virginia
Photographs: Hyungwon Kang/Reuters
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Eclipse not seen in India

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The eclipse could not be seen in India as it occurred during day time, but astro-lovers could see the full moon turning into a delightful shade of coppery-red from Europe, west Africa, the Americas, the Pacific Ocean, eastern Australia, the Philippines and eastern and northern Asia.


Image: The Moon is engulfed in the Earth's shadow during the peak of a rare winter solstice
Photographs: Doug Murray/Reuters
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Earth's axis tilts the farthest from the sun

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Tuesday was the shortest day of the year as people living on the northern side of the equator celebrated winter solstice.

"It is a day when the Earth's axis tilts the farthest from the sun and is called winter solstice, a term derived from Latin words 'sol' (sun) and 'sistere' (to stand still)," Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators President C B Devgun said.


Image: A combination of photographs shows the gradual lunar eclipse ending with a total eclipse as seen over the skies of Mexico City
Photographs: Henry Romero/Reuters
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Sun at the northernmost or southernmost extreme

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A solstice is an astronomical event which happens twice each year, when the tilt of the Earth's axis is most inclined toward or away from the sun, causing the sun's apparent position in the sky to reach its northernmost or southernmost extreme, he said.


Image: The Moon is seen during a total lunar eclipse from Mexico City
Photographs: Henry Romero/Reuters
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North Pole points away from the sun

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On the day of winter solstice, North Pole points directly away from the sun and South Pole points directly towards the Sun, he said, adding that the sun shines at lowest heights in northern skies and at maximum heights in southern skies.


Image: The shadow of the Earth is seen on the Moon during a total lunar eclipse
Photographs: Russell Cheyne/Reuters
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Next lunar eclipse on June 15

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This results in the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere, but at the same time it is the longest day in Southern Hemisphere.

The next lunar eclipse will be seen on June 15, 2011, which will be visible from India, he said. The two events will coincide next time on December 21, 2094.


Image: The Moon, appearing a dim red colour, is covered by the Earth's shadow
Photographs: Russell Cheyne/Reuters
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