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Total lunar eclipse gives heavenly show

By Ed Payne, CNN
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  • The eclipse was visible to North America, Greenland and Iceland
  • The United States won't see another total lunar eclipse until 2014
  • The last lunar eclipse to happen on the day of the winter solstice was in 1638.

(CNN) -- Stargazers who were willing to give up a little sleep got to catch the last lunar eclipse of 2010 early Tuesday.

The total lunar eclipse lasted about three and a half hours, starting as a partial eclipse about 1:33 a.m. ET and finishing at 5:01 a.m. ET, according to NASA.

As a coincidence, the eclipse fell on the same date as the 2010 winter solstice. The last lunar eclipse to happen on the day of the winter solstice was in 1638.

"For eclipse watchers, this means that the moon will appear very high in the night sky, as the solstice marks the time when Earth's axial tilt is farthest away from the sun," NASA said.

In areas with clear skies, only watchers across North America, Greenland and Iceland were able to see the eclipse. Those in western Europe could see the beginning stages before the moon set, and stargazers in western Asia saw the later stages after moonrise, according to NASA.

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The Twitter universe was aglow as the eclipse reached its peak.

"Moon fully covered, appears red - very cool," said Adam Goodman in Toronto, Ontario.

The weather didn't cooperate for everyone though.

"Thank you cloudy sky for ruining the eclipse for me, apparently I woke up 3 for no reason," Seth Pelletier in Utah tweeted.

The most recent lunar eclipse occurred June 26.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth lines up between the sun and the moon, blocking the sun's rays and casting its shadow on the moon, according to NASA. As the moon moves into the Earth's shadow, it appears to change color, turning from gray to orange or deep red.

The new color stems from indirect sunlight that passes through Earth's atmosphere and casts a glow on the moon, NASA said.

"Our atmosphere filters out most of the blue colored light, leaving the red and orange hues," the agency said.

Lunar eclipses differ from their solar counterparts, as no special equipment is needed for viewing. NASA will stream a live video feed of the eclipse from a camera mounted at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Tuesday was the last chance for those in the continental United States to see a total lunar ecllipse until April 15, 2014, according to NASA.

CNN's Emmanuella Grinberg contributed to this report.