Red planet and blood moon pair up to dazzle skygazers

St Helens Star

The term "blood moon" may be a rather sinister description for a total eclipse of the moon, but that doesn't take away from the special event which will unfold in the skies on July 27.

The total lunar eclipse will be the longest one so far this century, with the next eclipse of a similar length only due in 2123.

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 partly visible in Europe and South America.

The reason we don't get eclipses every month is because the moon orbits Earth on a slightly inclined plane of five degrees.

A "super moon" occurs when the moon is near its closest point to Earth in its elliptical orbit.

Amy Simon, a Nasa scientist who will make observations of storms on Mars on Friday, said: "It's giving people a chance to go out and look up and remind themselves that there are other things out there that people often forget about as they run from house to vehicle".

Apart from it being century's longest lunar eclipse, Mars will be very close to the moon on the same night.

While other colours in the spectrum are blocked and scattered by the Earth's atmosphere, red light tends to make it through easier.

"The moon is not always in ideal alignment with the sun and the Earth, so that is why we do not get a lunar eclipse every lunar cycle", Brad Tucker, an astronomer with the Australian National University's Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, said in a statement.

St Helens Star

When the Earth passes between the sun and the moon in a lunar eclipse, a shadow casts over the moon.

Mr Ubachukwu observed that a lunar eclipse could occur only on the night of a full moon.

Mesopotamians regarded the blood moon as an omen that the king would be attacked. And finally, there are total lunar eclipses, where the entire moon passes through the umbra.

"Less dark eclipses may show the moon as dark grey or brown.as rust-coloured, brick-red, or, if very bright, copper-red or orange".

The eclipse will be witnessed as far as Chile and New Zealand, but the USA and Canada will miss out on a glimpse of the rare lunar spectacle.

"We haven't had one in Ireland in about three years". The next time that record will be broken is in 2287.

At the same time, Mars will be close to earth, making it appear unusually large and bright.

"Enthusiasts can witness the phenomenon with the naked eye and without any filter", Bharat Kumar of the Breakthrough Science Society (BSS) in Bengaluru said.


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