The wait is finally over. It is time to leave all your work aside and gaze up in the sky to experience a spectacular view of heavens tonight. Sun, Earth, Blood Moon and the Red Planet are all set to align perfectly on the night of July 27.
Mars at opposition
What’s up to Mars during the lunar eclipse? Well, the Red Planet is at opposition. This means that Sun, Earth and Mars will be in a straight line. An observer on Mars would see the Earth transit the Sun just like we observe the Moon transit the Sun during a solar eclipse. Normally, at opposition, planets make their closest approach to Earth. However, Mars will be at its closest approach 4 days later, on July 31. This is because Earth and Mars don’t have a perfectly circular orbit. Due to an elliptic orbit, there is little gap between opposition and closest approach. But this won’t make much difference in the brightness of the planet. It will be as bright on the night of the eclipse as it would be on July 31.
To spot the planet, one needs to gaze up in south east direction (for people in northern hemisphere) after sunset. It is a firespot blazing like nothing else in the night sky. At a magnitude (see The Concept of Magnitude in Astrophysics) of -2.75, it is one of the brightest speck. It is highest in south at around 1 a.m. daylight saving time. If you have a telescope, you may spot the polar ice caps as the planet-wide dust storm is beginning to settle. Once you spot Mars, look for Saturn about 30 degrees upper right of Mars.
Total Lunar Eclipse
During the Martian opposition, Sun, Earth and Mars will align. But hey, we got some more filling in our sandwich. The Moon will come between Mars and Earth and will be covered by the Earth’s shadow for the longest lunar eclipse of the century. The Eclipse of July 27 will be the longest eclipse of the century (2000-2100) that will last for 1 hour and 43 minutes. The Super Blue Blood Moon of January this year lasted for 1 hour 16 minutes. That’s the duration of full lunar eclipse, when Earth will completely block out the sunlight falling on the lunar surface. From start to finish, the Moon will take about 4 hours to leave Earth’s dark umbral shadow.
The eclipse will be visible from the Earth’s eastern hemisphere (Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand). North America won’t see any eclipse as the moon will be below the horizon during the time of eclipse. The timings of the eclipse are as follows:
Partial eclipse begins: 18:24 ( 6:24 p.m.) UTC
Total eclipse begins: 19:30 (7:30 p.m.) UTC
Greatest eclipse: 20:22 (8:22 p.m.) UTC
Total eclipse ends: 21:13 (9:13 p.m.) UTC
Partial eclipse ends: 22:19 (10:19 p.m.) UTC
(UTC is the Coordinated Universal Time, same as GMT, Greenwich Mean Time)
The July full moon is known as the Thunder Moon, when the moon is in or near the stars of Sagittarius and Capricornus. These names of full moon gained popularity in native America and American folklore. This full Moon is called the thunder Moon because of the frequency of thunderstorms during this hot, dry month. In India, this day is celebrated as the ‘Guru Purnima’ (Purnima is a Sanskrit word meaning Full Moon).