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I saw something very strange last night that I'm hoping someone can help me explain. I was sitting on my roof with a night-cap at about 3am last night. The moon, about the last quarter, was low in the sky in the east. Something truly strange happened. The moon started to disappear. There were clouds in the sky, but it wasn't this, I'm quite sure. The moon was being eclipsed. The dark part (at the top of the moon, as the moon was lying on its back - a sailor moon? That's what it looked like, like you could sit in it.) grew, the crescent closed, until it was just a spot of cream colored light and then winked out entirely.

I was a bit amazed - I'd stumbled onto my roof in the dead of the night and by complete chance witnessed a total lunar eclipse? I sat there in awe, staring. That's when the moon started to reappear, in the reverse procedure as its disappearance. Becoming a gleaming point of light, then a thin crescent, then the quarter moon which I suppose is what it is "supposed to look like."

AND THEN IT HAPPENED AGAIN. The moon was eclipsed and revealed again.

Both times the whole process took about 6-10 minutes. I'm not sure if this cycling continued, it was late and I had to sleep. I checked the NASA site for eclipses for my time and location, but no.

Has anyone ever seen anything like this, or have any plausible explanation as to what is going on here?

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Circling Stealth-Zeppelin? Moon is, as you mentioned, currently in last quarter. Lunar eclipses only happen when the moon is FULL and earth can shadow its surface by getting between it and the sun. Something else was blocking your view. – Wayfaring Stranger Aug 20 '14 at 19:53
There's a fairly decent chance it was actually a few small clouds. – Florin Andrei Aug 21 '14 at 1:35
Do you have an unusually hilly/mountainous horizon? – barrycarter Aug 22 '14 at 0:36
barrycarter - no this is in philly, essentially i'm on a hill looking towards a lower horizon / skyline – starsinmypockets Aug 22 '14 at 12:43
So something was blocking the moon as seen from your location. How sharp was the edge of the blockage? Was the edge straight or curved? (I can just about guarantee it wasn't a true eclipse; almost certainly something close to you, within a few miles, was blocking your view.) – Keith Thompson Aug 22 '14 at 22:52

1 Answer 1

This was clouds.

  1. Eclipses occur at full moon, not last quarter.
  2. Eclipses take several hours as the moon traverses the Earth's shadow, not a few minutes.
  3. Eclipses don't look like the moon becoming a gleaming point of light. In a lunar eclipse the moon becomes a copper colour, as it is illuminated by red light that has passed round the Earth, through our atmosphere.

On the other hand, clouds can pass in front of the moon at any time, and when low in the sky would take a few minutes to pass in front of the moon (depending on wind), and could entirely cover the moon, giving a the impression of an eclipse, if you've not seen one before. But lunar eclipses look like this:

Lunar eclipse look like this.

Photo Credit: Jimmy Westlake

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