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December 21, 2010
Lunar eclipse coincides with winter solstice
NEW YORK (AP) -- Skywatchers got an early holiday present this year: A total eclipse of the moon. Hanging high in the sky, the moon slowly turned from bright silver into a red disk early Tuesday. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth casts its shadow on the full moon, blocking the sun's rays that otherwise reflect off the moon's surface. Some indirect sunlight still pierces through to give the moon its eerie hue. The 3 1/2 hour celestial spectacle was visible from North and Central America where skies were clear. Portions of Europe and Asia only caught part of the show. Since the year's only total lunar eclipse coincided with winter solstice, the moon glowed high in the sky. The last time this occurred was more than three centuries ago on Dec. 21, 1638. (30 images)

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This combination of pictures shows the moon in various stages of a total lunar eclipse as seen from Mexico city on December 21, 2010. This eclipse takes place just hours before the December solstice, which marks the beginning of northern winter and southern summer. AFP/ Getty Images / Luis Acosta


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Light shines from two Manhattan buildings as a total lunar eclipse occurs as the full moon is shadowed by the Earth on December 21, 2010 in New York City. Getty Images / Chris Hondros



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A Broadway street sign is illuminated while in the distance a total lunar eclipse occurs as the full moon is shadowed by the Earth on December 21, 2010 in New York City. The lunar eclipse was visible during the early morning hours in North and Central America, revealing what seemed to onlookers as an eerie reddish glow on the moon. Getty Images / Chris Hondros



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Light shines from Manhattan's Flatiron building as a total lunar eclipse occurs as the full moon is shadowed by the Earth on December 21, 2010 in New York City. Getty Images / Chris Hondros



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Light shines from Manhattan's Flatiron building as a total lunar eclipse occurs as the full moon is shadowed by the Earth on December 21, 2010 in New York City. Getty Images / Chris Hondros



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Light shines from Manhattan's Woolworth building as a total lunar eclipse occurs as the full moon is shadowed by the Earth on December 21, 2010 in New York City. Getty Images / Chris Hondros



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Light shines from a Manhattan building as a total lunar eclipse occurs as the full moon is shadowed by the Earth on December 21, 2010 in New York City. Getty Images / Chris Hondros



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Light shines from a Manhattan building as a total lunar eclipse occurs as the full moon is shadowed by the Earth on December 21, 2010 in New York City. Getty Images / Chris Hondros



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A total lunar eclipse occurs as the full moon is shadowed by the Earth on December 21, 2010 in New York City. Getty Images / Chris Hondros



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The moon on its way to being totally eclipsed is seen with the Chrysler Building in the foreground in New York, Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth casts its shadow on the full moon, blocking the sun's rays that otherwise reflect off the moon's surface. Some indirect sunlight still pierces through to give the moon its eerie hue. AP / Seth Wenig



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A partially eclipsed moon is seen over the Manhattan Bridge in New York, Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010. AP / Seth Wenig



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The moon is seen just before it is totally eclipsed from New York, Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010. AP / Seth Wenig



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The moon is seen during a total lunar eclipse from New York, Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010. AP / Seth Wenig



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The lunar eclipse is seen with the steeple of Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, at 3:59 a.m. EST Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010 in Philadelphia, Penna. Courier-Post / Douglas Bovitt



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In a photo provided by NASA the Washington Monument is seen as the full moon is shadowed by the Earth during a total lunar eclipse on the arrival of the winter solstice, Tuesday, December 21, 2010 in Washington. From beginning to end, the eclipse lasted about three hours and twenty-eight minutes. AP / NASA/ Bill Ingalls



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The moon continues to emerge from a total lunar eclipse near Archer, Fla., Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010 at 4:15 a.m. EST. AP / Phil Sandlin



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The moon continues to emerge from a total eclipse at 4:39 a.m. EST near Archer, Fla., Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010. AP / Phil Sandlin



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This combination of pictures shows the moon during a cycle of a total eclipse as seen from Silver Spring, Maryland, on December 21, 2010. This eclipse takes place just hours before the December solstice, which marks the beginning of northern winter and southern summer. AFP/ Getty Images / Jewel Samad



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A series of photos taken over an hour long period show the full moon as it is shadowed by the Earth as a total lunar eclipse marks the arrival of the winter solstice Tuesday, December 21, 2010 in Overland Park, Kan. AP / Charlie Riedel



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In this handout photo provided by NASA, A total lunar eclipse is seen as the full moon is shadowed by the Earth on the arrival of the winter solstice, on December 21, 2010 in Arlington, Virginia. It is the first lunar eclipse that has coincided with the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, since 1638. Getty Images / Bill Ingalls/NASA



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In this handout photo provided by NASA, A total lunar eclipse is seen as the full moon is shadowed by the Earth on the arrival of the winter solstice, on December 21, 2010 in Arlington, Virginia. Getty Images / Bill Ingalls/NASA



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In this handout photo provided by NASA, A total lunar eclipse is seen as the full moon is shadowed by the Earth on the arrival of the winter solstice, on December 21, 2010 in Arlington, Virginia. Getty Images / Bill Ingalls/NASA



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A photo provided by NASA shows a total lunar eclipse beginning as the full moon is shadowed by the Earth on the arrival of the winter solstice, Tuesday, December 21, 2010 in Arlington, VA. From beginning to end, the eclipse lasted about three hours and twenty-eight minutes. AP / NASA/Bill Ingalls



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In this handout photo provided by NASA, A total lunar eclipse is seen as the full moon is shadowed by the Earth on the arrival of the winter solstice, on December 21, 2010 in Arlington, Virginia. Getty Images / Bill Ingalls/NASA



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A picture taken in Caracas, Venezuela shows the moon before the start of a total eclipse on December, 21, 2010. During the eclipse, the Earth will align between the full moon and the sun, covering the lunar surface in shadow. The eclipse is also falling on the same day as the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, a rare occurrence that hasn't happened in 372 years. AFP/ Getty Images / Miguel Gutierrez



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The volcano Teide is pictured on December 21, 2010 during a total lunar eclipse, in the National Park of Teide on the Spanish canary island of Tenerife. AFP/ Getty Images / Desiree Martin



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A combination of 10 pictures taken on December 21, 2010 in the National Park of the volcano Teide (2300m of altitude) shows the moon during a total lunar eclipse, on the spanish canary island of Tenerife. AFP/ Getty Images / Desiree Martin



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People look through a telescope set up by the Amateur Astronomical Society to observe the Moon and stars on December 21, 2010, in Reykjavik. The Moon turned red in Reykjavik early today at the exact moment astronomers had predicted, treating a small crowd of enthusiasts gathered to witness the lunar eclipse to an amazing sight. AFP/ Getty Images / Halldor Kolbeins



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People wait for the lunar eclipse on December 21, 2010 near the village of Vuollerim, Lapland province, west of the costal city of Luleaa, Sweden. AFP/ Getty Images / Jonathan Nackstrand



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Three snow hikers watch the almost full moon rise behind the Weissfluhjoch in Arosa, Switzerland, Monday, Dec. 20, 2010 on the day before a total lunar eclipse visible from Britain on Tuesday morning, when the Earth casts a shadow onto the Moon. AP / Alessandro Della Bella



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