27-28 July 2018 – Longest Lunar Eclipse This Century

The longest “Blood Moon” eclipse this century will coincide with Mars’ closest approach in 15 years to offer skygazers a thrilling astronomical double bill on Friday, astronomers say.

For about half the world, the moon will be partly or fully in Earth’s shadow from 17.14 to 23.28 GMT – six hours and 14 minutes in all.

The period of complete eclipse, known as “totality”, when the moon appears darkest will last from 19.30 to 21.13 GMT.

Totality will last for 103 minutes, making it the longest eclipse of the 21st century. At the same time, Mars will hover near the moon in the night sky, easily visible with the naked eye.

Our neighbouring planet will appear unusually large and bright, a mere 57.7 million kilometers (35.9 million miles) from Earth on its elliptical orbit around the sun.

“We have a rare and interesting conjunction of phenomena,” Pascal Descamps, an astronomer with the Paris Observatory, told AFP.

“We should have a coppery red tint on the moon with Mars the ‘Red Planet’ just next to it, very bright and with a slight orange hue itself.”

Amateur astronomers in the southern hemisphere will be best-placed to enjoy the spectacle, especially those in southern Africa, Australia, India and Madagascar, though it will also be visible in Europe and South America.

The long duration of this eclipse is partly due to the fact that the moon will make a near-central passage through Earth’s umbra—the darkest, most central part of the shadow.

Our constant companion will also be at the farthest point on its orbit from Earth, making its movement across the sky slower from our perspective, thus spending longer in the dark.

In the middle of a lunar eclipse it can look as if a red planet has taken up residence near the Earth—they are both eerie and beautiful and I’ll certainly be looking out for it, reports phys.org.

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