Moon turns vivid red on Wednesday

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Washington, Feb 18 (UNI) The Moon will turn into a delightful shade of anything from bright orange to blood red and possibly turquoise too, during the total lunar eclipse on Wednesday.

The February 20 eclipse, the last one until December 2010, will last about three hours and 26 minutes and will be visible from South America and most of North America.

The dramatic colour transition can also be observed from Western Europe, Africa and western Asia on February 21, NASA said in its website.

Most eclipses are dark, caused by volcanic gas and dust which filters and blocks much of the Sun's light from reaching the Moon.

But since no major volcanic eruptions have taken place recently, the Moon will probably take on a vivid red or orange colour during the total phase, the organisation said.

''Such a tint is possible, depending on the unpredictable state of the atmosphere at the time of the eclipse,'' an astronomer of the Miami Space Transit Planetarium said.

The first hints of red will appear around 2200 hrs Eastern Standard Time (EST), heralding a profusion of coppery hues that roll across the Moon's surface, which will start fading around 2300 hrs EST.

A flash of turquoise can be observed at the edge of the shadow during the totality, when the Moon is completely immersed within the Earth's dark shadow. This tint is the result of the ozone.

''During a lunar eclipse, most of the light illuminating the moon passes through the stratosphere where it is reddened by scattering. However, light passing through the upper stratosphere penetrates the ozone layer, which absorbs red light and makes it bluer,'' eclipse researcher Dr Richard Keen of the University of Colorado said.


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