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Street level view of the eclipse

lunar
Red colouring occurs as the sun's light reflects through the atmosphere  

LONDON, England (CNN) -- It was a heaven sent opportunity for London's pickpockets -- thousands of potential victims squinting up at the night sky to view the lunar eclipse.

All along the capital's famous shopping -- and purse-snatching -- highway, Oxford Street, necks were craned in celestial curiosity.

The space spectators were not to be disappointed. At about 1930 GMT only a quarter of the brightly shining moon was left peeping over the top of planet earth's shadow.

The total lunar eclipse was scientifically eyeballed from Britain's Royal Observatory at Greenwich.

But even for those without a telescope and with just a few minutes to spare as they hurried home there was a show to be had.

Slowly the moon dulled and the lower half was suffused with a russet-coloured glow.

Squatting on a road-salting box on the corner of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road in the chilly air photographer Melanie Peningue was transfixed.

"I am waiting for it to be totally eaten then it will be beautiful," said Peningue, 22, from La Rochelle, France. "This is a very special thing. It is beautiful."

Anaesthetist James Smart, who works at London's Middlesex Hospital, had popped out briefly for a look.

Dr Smart, 29, said: "I'm going to wait for it to go red, although I don't suppose I will get the best view here because of all the street lights. I saw one once before in my home town Swansea.

"I think it's a shame if people can't spend 10 minutes to watch such phenomena."

Lawyer Andy Melville, 43, from Camden, North London, said: "It's always a pleasure to watch the moon in its various phases."

Musician Guy Clark, 27, from Brixton, South London, said: "I'm watching this as I want to see a blood red moon -- it might inspire a song."

His mother, retired financial advisor, Jan Clark, 57, from Addlestone, Surrey, England, said: "I'm amazed at how fast it is covering. I watched the total eclipse of the sun and I was so moved by it I started weeping.

"When you watch these events you can understand how terrifying it must have been for Stone-Age man to witness them. And as I watch this now -- the moon being covered over -- I can feel how our ancestors must have feared the hand of God moving against them."

But what about the pickpockets ?

"That is a good point," she added, "Which is why I'm keeping my back against this shop front."



RELATED STORIES:
Europe to view lunar eclipse
January 9, 2001
Europe set for prime-time eclipse
January 9, 2001
In Brief
January 4, 2001

RELATED SITE:
ROG: Solar Eclipses

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