Skywatchers will be treated to the longest “blood moon” eclipse of the 21st Century on Friday.
As it rises, during this total eclipse, Earth’s natural satellite will turn a striking shade of red or ruddy brown.
The “totality” period, when light from the Moon is totally obscured, will last for one hour, 43 minutes.
The eclipse is visible from Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Australia, most of Asia and South America and in the UK from around 21:00 to 22:15 BST.
On the same night and over the coming days, Mars will be at its closest point to Earth since 2003 – visible as a “bright red star” where skies are clear.
Why will the eclipse last so long?
The Moon will pass right through the centre of the Earth’s shadow, at the shadow’s widest point.
“This is actually almost as long as a lunar eclipse could be,” Prof Tim O’Brien, an astrophysicist at University of Manchester, explained.
It coincides not only with Mars’s close approach, but with what he described as a “procession of planets” – a line-up of our celestial neighbours that will give skywatchers a particularly good view of Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars.
Umbra: The darker, central part of the Earth’s shadow
Penumbra: The lighter, outer part of the shadow cast by our planet
Because the Moon is far away from Earth relatively speaking – its orbit is an ellipse, so it moves closer and further and looks larger and smaller from Earth.
“Mars will look like this beautiful bright red star just below the Moon,” said Prof O’Brien.
“Every couple of years or so, the Earth overtakes Mars on the inside as it orbits the Sun, so Mars is closest to us.
“And because of the elliptical shape of the orbit, it’s even closer than normal; it really is a great time to spot Mars.”
Where will the eclipse be visible?
Where skies are clear of cloud, the spectacle will be visible almost everywhere around the world, with the exception of North America. The eclipse will already have started by the time the Moon rises over the UK and Western Europe.
Prof O’Brien explained that people in the UK would “need to have a clear south-eastern horizon as the Moon comes up” in order to see it.
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SOURCE: BBC, by