Published: Fri, July 27, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Red planet and 'blood moon' pair up to dazzle skygazers

Red planet and 'blood moon' pair up to dazzle skygazers

The eclipse will be the longest of the 21st Century so far. And, of course, there are areas across the world where the eclipse will not be visible at all, such as North America.

On July 27 at around 10pm, the red planet Mars will be directly opposite to the Sun and at the same time being at closest distance from the Earth at about 56 million kilometres. It will begin when the full moon enters the Earth's shadow (Penumbra) at 1.14am on July 28. That's about the middle of the afternoon here in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

The best views - weather permitting - could be across Eastern Europe, Central and East Africa and South East Asia, from where the entire eclipse will be visible.

Egypt is set to be among the best places to view the longest total lunar eclipse of the century, which is set to commence on Friday 27 July at night.

A "blood moon" happens when Earth's moon is in full eclipse and has no special astronomical significance, rather, the view in the sky is striking as the usually whitish moon becomes red or ruddy-brown. If in case you are in a metropolitan city, it may be even more hard to watch the phenomenon due to pollution.

Mars is brighter than it has been in years.

Part of the Moon's shadow fell near the South Pole, so partial coverage of the Sun was visible in parts of southern Australia.

The red moon is possible because while the moon is in total shadow, some light from the sun passes through Earth's atmosphere and is bent toward the moon.

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Pick a geographic location and search for all eclipses visible from that spot over several thousand years. At 12:51 a.m. PT on July 31, the distance between Earth and Mars will narrow down to 35,785,537 miles, and then widen again.

This is what gives the phenomenon the name "blood moon", though Mark Bailey of the Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland said the colour can vary greatly.

Members of public are invited to bring binoculars or telescopes to enjoy viewing the lunar eclipse.

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon and the sun are on exact opposite sides of Earth, according to NASA.

"Mars will look like this attractive bright red star just below the Moon", said Prof O'Brien.

It's also what's being called a "blood moon". The moon will be in flawless alignment with the sun and Earth on Friday, with the moon on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun. This coloration is due to some sunlight leaking through Earth's atmosphere and reaching the Moon, red light standing a better chance of doing so (for the same reason that the sky is blue: shorter wavelengths are scattered more efficiently by the molecules in our atmosphere).

"It's important that people know that these can be seen with the naked eye", he said.

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