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A lunar eclipse over Oceanside, California. REUTERS/Mike Blake

(reuters_tickers)

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A thousand people crowded on a hilltop outside Los Angeles before dawn on Wednesday for one of the best views in America of a rare lunar eclipse called a "Super Blue Blood Moon," as the Earth's shadow fell across its natural satellite.

Outside the Griffith Observatory, which more commonly draws tourists looking at the city's famous Hollywood sign, people lounged on the grass and peered through telescopes for a better look at the red-tinted "blood moon" shadow

"I didn't expect to see this many people and it kind of feels like nice inside to be, 'Ah! Other people know about this and want to come see it,'" said Sam Rubaye, a 34-year-old property manager in Los Angeles who came up with friends.

In western North America, the eclipse began at 3:48 a.m. Pacific Time (1148 GMT), according to NASA. Those on the East Coast were less fortunate: the moon had set before the eclipse was in full swing, according to NASA.

The eclipse occurred during the rare occasion of a second full moon in a single month, otherwise known as a "blue moon," and during a point in the moon's orbit at which it has reached its closest position to Earth, thus making it appear larger and brighter in the sky than normal, as a "super moon."

The reddish appearance of the lunar surface - the moon's image does not vanish entirely during an eclipse - is due to rays of sunlight passing through Earth's atmosphere as the moon falls into our planet's shadow.

The last time all three conditions occurred for a single lunar eclipse visible from North America was in 1866, according to the meteorological forecaster AccuWeather.

"Griffith Observatory is all about having an eyeball to the sky, and so it's one thing to learn about this event in a book, but it's another to see it for yourself," observatory director Ed Krupp said in a phone interview.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Michael Perry and Andrew Hay)

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Reuters