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South County early risers treated to heavenly display Phillip Brents | Fri, Dec 23 2011 12:59 PM

Early risers who braved cold temperatures on the morning of Dec. 10 were treated to a rare celestial display as the full moon was covered by the Earth’s shadow to produce a total lunar eclipse.

The event took place just before sunrise, with the eclipsed moon sinking toward the northwestern horizon as dawn approached, thus creating a colorful contrast between the red moon and brightening blue sky.

Star-News science editor Phillip Brents observed the event from downtown Chula Vista, capturing the entire progress of the Earth's shadow across the face of our nearest celestial neighbor until a few minutes before sunrise when the sky was sufficiently bright enough to mask the lunar spectacle.

The moon was only a few degrees above the horizon when totally eclipsed.

Photographer Jon Bigornia in Eastlake also braved the chilly temperatures to capture the colorful event from his neighborhood while Bonita's Ron Becijos did the same.

The umbral eclipse began precisely at 4:45 a.m., with totality occurring at 6:05 a.m. and moonset at 6:43 a.m. Sunrise occurred at 6:39 a.m., though many observers lost sight of the moon around 6:20 a.m. due to its low contrast image against the bright blue sky.

The next total lunar eclipse will not be visible again from the area until 2014.

Star-News science editor Phillip Brents caught this image of the totally eclipsed moon slipping behind some horizon-hugging trees by using eyepiece projection on a Newtonian telescope at 40x.

Star-News science editor Phillip Brents caught this image of the totally eclipsed moon just before it slipped behind some horizon-hugging trees.

Eastlake resident Jon Bigornia caught this image of the totally eclipsed moon illuminating the vista above Eastlake Shores.

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