This evening (27th July 2018) the night sky will play host to a rather eye-catching event.
Yes, the longest lunar eclipse that those inhabiting Earth would have experienced in nearly a century will be viewable from around 20:24 local time.
Before you simply walk outside tonight and look up, here are five noteworthy facts that make tonight’s lunar eclipse particular interesting.
Tonight’s type of lunar eclipse is being referred to as a red blood moon, but that name isn’t common among astronomers, according to Dr. Daniel Cunnama of the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO).
That said it’s easy to see why the name has stuck, with the moon becoming enveloped in a pale reddish hue once the lunar eclipse is in full effect.
This visual phenomenon is caused by the fact that Earth will be passing between the Sun and the moon in a perfect alignment, with the Earth’s shadow being cast over the latter.
For those interested a solar eclipse is when the reverse happens and the moon sits between the Earth and the Sun.
What makes this eclipse particular newsworthy is the fact that it will be longest one recorded in a century.
More specifically all the stages of the eclipse are estimated to last three hours and 55 minutes.
The main stage of the event, also referred to as the umbra, will last for one hour and 43 minutes.
As mentioned, this lunar eclipse will be happening in stages.
The Astronomical Society of South Africa (ASSA) says the first hour of the eclipse will see the moon begin changing shape as it enters the shadow of the Earth.
The first stage of the eclipse will kick off at 19:14 (SAST), with the umbra set to start around 21:30 and last for 103 minutes, says Cunnama.
As such you’ll have plenty of time to watch the lunar eclipse in all its glory and snap some sweet pics for the Gram (if that’s your thing).
Along with the red blood moon, there’ll be another celestial body visible in the night sky as Mars (our solar system’s red planet) will be viewable too.
It will come into focus on the same night, as Mars will be shining the brightest it has in the past 15 years.
It won’t, however, look as bright as the red blood moon, so you’ll at least know which one you’re looking at.
If for whatever reason you can’t catch tonight’s lunar eclipse, the next one of this magnitude is set to happen on the morning of 16th May 2022.
Given that it’s not happening at night, it will probably be harder to spot, so we suggest clearing your evening plans to view tonight’s red blood moon.
For a better understanding of how lunar eclipses occur, hit play on the NASA produced video below.
To find out the best free viewing locations across the country for tonight’s lunar eclipse, head here.
Remember to share all of your red blood moon pics on Twitter using the hashtag #lunareclipse.
[Sources – ASSA | Planetary.org | Doctor Daniel Cunnama]