Century's last lunar eclipse

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Astronomers across Europe scanned the skies last night hoping to catch a glimpse of the last lunar eclipse this millennium.

The eclipse, which is visible to the naked eye if the sky is clear, makes the earth's shadow appear to "eat" the full moon, turning it a deep orange.

Unlike eclipses of the sun, lunar eclipses are not infrequent. But people often miss them, as they usually occur over the sea. In Britain, the eclipse took place between 6.15pm and 7.15pm.

Scientists predict that the next one visible in the United Kingdom will be early in 2000.

Kristen Lippincott, curator of the Royal Observatory, said lunar eclipses were spectacular. "This `eating' process goes on for about an hour until the moon itself, which is slung low in the sky, becomes a dark coppery orange," she said.

The colour is caused as the sun's red light is refracted around the earth and reflects off the moon.