On Friday night, amateur astronomers across Switzerland had the lucky chance to watch the longest lunar eclipse of the 21st century.
The full time-span of the natural phenomenon, including twilight, began at 7:14pm Swiss time and was over by 1:28am on Saturday.
Between 9:30pm and 11:13pm, the moon was completely shrouded in the Earth’s shadow, for a total eclipse time of one hour and 43 minutes, making it the longest of this century so far. The moon remained visible during the eclipse and was illuminated by a reddish light caused by the sun’s rays being filtered by the earth’s atmosphere.
Views of the event in Switzerland – which could, unlike a solar eclipse, safely be made without special glasses – were somewhat less spectacular than in other parts of the world, with cloudy skies interfering with optimal viewing in Lausanne and Bern. However, those in Geneva had somewhat better luck, with the phenomenon being visible downtown, despite the city’s light pollution. In Lucerne, the astronomical society provided telescopes at the lakeshore for the public to get a closer look.
Attendance at observatories that opened their doors for the event was particularly popular: The Morges observatory in canton Vaud saw 600 visitors on Friday night – twice the number expected.
“It’s the first time we’ve welcomed so many people – we were victims of our own success, but in a nice way,” said Sabine André, president of the amateur astronomer's organisation of La Côte (Astrac).
This summer’s eclipse was visible not just from Europe, but also to those in Africa, Asia and Australia. In addition to its length, the astronomical event was unusual because Mars was exceptionally close to Earth at the time – 57.6 million kilometres (35.2 million miles) – making it visible to the naked eye.