The clouds part and crowd gets a celestial show

KUALA LUMPUR: The longest lunar eclipse in a decade, which saw the moon turning brick-red, caught the attention of about 1,000 people who gathered at the National Mosque's compound as early as 10pm on Wednesday to witness the phenomenon.

The eclipse began at 1.25am Malaysian time when the moon entered the Earth's penumbra and completed its passing at 5.03am.

However, due to cloudy skies, the first two stages of the eclipse were hardly visible, even through telescopes. Those gathered, however, were not totally disappointed as clouds finally parted and provided a clear view of the eclipse when it reached its maximum phase at 4.13am.

The eclipse continued until 7.01am but the natural phenomenon could not be seen at that time as the moon had entered the lighter part of the Earth's penumbral shadow.

The Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur Mosque, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin Mosque and the Putra Mosque in Putrajaya held special prayers at 3am in conjunction with the event.

The National Mosque, Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) and the National Space Agency had jointly organised a Total Lunar Eclipse Observation Programme at the compound of the National Mosque.

A briefing on the eclipse, khusuf (eclipse) prayers, a special lunar eclipse sermon, quiz and observation of Jupiter, Venus and Mars, were held in conjunction with the event.

The lunar eclipse sermon titled 'Strengthening Faith Through Lunar Eclipse' were presented by the National Mosque Imam, Ehsan Mohd Hosni

The National Planetarium provided 10 telescopes for those who wanted to get a better view of the eclipse.

Angkasa Education and Science director Azreena Ahmad said those who had missed the partial lunar eclipse could view the recorded version at Angkasa's website -- www.angkasa.gov.my.

The lunar eclipse was the longest and darkest eclipse of the century, when Earth's satellite turned brick-red, and was seen in parts of Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.

The last eclipse to exceed this duration was in 2000.