LONDON (Reuters) - Thousands of hopeful astronomers around the world tried to catch a glimpse of the year's only total lunar eclipse -- but those watching from Britain saw little more than cloud.
Watchers from the eastern United States saw it easily Wednesday night and had posted dozens of successful pictures on the Internet -- but by mid-morning none had been posted from Britain, where it should have been most visible between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. British time Thursday (10 p.m. and 11 p.m. EST Wednesday).
"It's been pretty grim," said John Mason, spokesman for the British Astronomical Association. "There were a couple of gaps in the cloud for a couple of seconds from where I was but nothing else."
During the eclipse, the Earth lined up directly between the Sun and Moon, covering the latter with the Earth's shadow. Depending on atmospheric conditions on Earth, the moon should have appeared blood red, rusty or grey.
The Royal Astronomical Society had promised a "spectacular sight", saying that unlike a solar eclipse it could be viewed without any special equipment.
But in the event, special equipment would have been unnecessary anyway. The next lunar eclipse will not be seen until December 2010.
"It's bad luck," said Royal Astronomical Society spokesman Robert Massey. "But it's always one of these things when you're watching from the UK."
Reporting by Peter Apps