A rare blood moon happened tonight... [PHOTOS]

Millions around the world treated to the sight of a ‘blood moon’, as a lunar eclipse and a ‘supermoon’ – a full moon that is particularly close to earth – combined to make our natural satellite appear red

The full lunar eclipse took place at around 4am. Photo by Chris Mangion
The full lunar eclipse took place at around 4am. Photo by Chris Mangion

Stayed up late tonight? A lunar eclipse began on Monday morning just after midnight, the last total lunar eclipse we’ll witness until 2018.

On Sunday night and Monday morning, millions of people around the world were treated to the sight of a ‘blood moon’, as a lunar eclipse and a ‘supermoon’ – a full moon that is particularly close to earth – combined to make our natural satellite appear red. It happens specifically when the Earth’s shadow completely covers the moon, causing it to dim and take on a yellowish hue.

Photos: Chris Mangion
Photos: Chris Mangion
Photos: Chris Mangion
Photos: Chris Mangion
Photos: Chris Mangion
Photos: Chris Mangion
Photos: Chris Mangion
Photos: Chris Mangion
Photos: Chris Mangion
Photos: Chris Mangion
Photos: Chris Mangion
Photos: Chris Mangion

A supermoon's eclipse is exceedingly rare – NASA says a supermoon eclipse has only occurred five times in the 1900s, and the next one is expected in 2033.

This eclipse is the last in what is called a Lunar Tetrad – a series of four total lunar eclipses that occur in a row, without any partial eclipses in between. The total eclipses happen about six months apart. The current tetrad began in April 2014, with subsequent eclipses occurring in October 2014, April 2015 and the final one tomorrow.

Lunar tetrads can be rare in some centuries and can occur frequently in others. The 21st century will have eight lunar tetrads, the maximum number of lunar tetrads that can occur in a century. The last time this happened was in the 9th century.

Eclipses in history

To our ancestors, eclipses must have been even more awe-inspiring than they are today. Without a contemporary understanding of astronomy and almost no light pollution providing perfect viewing conditions, eclipses would have been highly culturally significant for older civilizations. Here are some legends tied to lunar eclipses from cultures around the world.

The Inca believed a total eclipse was the result of a giant jaguar attacking and eating the moon. In order to deter the big cat from attacking the Earth next, Inca shook spears at the moon and made lots of noise to drive the predator away.

Ancient Mesopotamians saw lunar eclipses as an assault on the moon by seven demons. As lunar events were linked to events on Earth and thus to their leader, Mesopotamians installed a surrogate king, in case of any attack. The real king was hidden away as an ordinary citizen until the danger passed.

The Native American Hupa believed the moon had 20 wives and many pets, including mountain lions and snakes. When the moon did not feed the animals, they attacked him and made him bleed. The eclipse would end when his wives stepped in to protect him, collecting his blood and restoring him to health.

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