SYDNEY (AP) -- Asian and African night owls were treated to a lunar eclipse, and ash in the atmosphere from a Chilean volcano turned it blood red for some viewers.
The Sydney Observatory said the eclipse was to begin at 3:25 a.m. Thursday (1:25 p.m. EDT, 5:25 p.m. GMT Wednesday) and last until after 5 a.m.
Scientists said the specific phenomenon - known as a "deep lunar eclipse" - often exudes a coppery color. But the intensity of the color depends on the amount of ash and dust in the atmosphere.
Luckily for moon-gazers, there was plenty of ash in the air so the moon appeared orange or red, especially in Asia.
The full moon normally glows from reflected sunlight. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon glides through the long shadow cast by the Earth and is blocked from the sunlight that illuminates it.
As the moon plunged deeper into Earth's shadow, it appeared to gradually change color, turning from silver to orange or red. This is because some indirect sunlight still reaches the moon after passing through the Earth's atmosphere, which scatters blue light. Only red light strikes the moon, giving it an eerie crimson hue.
While the excessive ash made for a fantastic celestial show, it's been hard on travelers. The ash has grounded hundreds of flights around the region.
The entire eclipse lasted a little over 5 1/2 hours. Observers in Europe missed the first part of the show because it occurred before the moon rises. Eastern Asia and eastern Australia did not catch the final stages, which happened after the moon set. Portions of South America will be able see the moon entirely shrouded. North America was left out of the lunar spectacle entirely.
The last total lunar eclipse visible from the U.S. occurred on Dec. 21, 2010, which coincided with winter solstice and was widely observed.
The next total lunar eclipse will fall on Dec. 10 with best viewing from Asia and Australia. The moon will be completely blotted out for 51 minutes. Only parts of the U.S. including Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest will catch a glimpse. The rest of the continental U.S. will have to wait until April 15, 2014 to witness a total lunar eclipse.
Unlike solar eclipses, lunar eclipses are safe to watch with the naked eye.