The Longest Total Lunar Eclipse of the 21st Century Happening Tonight!

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This Friday, on the 27th of July, the longest total Lunar Eclipse of the 21st century will take place. The complete phase of this Blood Moon Eclipse is going to last 1 hour and 43 minutes. During the eclipse, the Moon will turn into a spectacular red or ruddy-brown color. From the beginning to the end, the whole celestial event is going to last nearly 4 hours.

The total Lunar Eclipse of July will happen on the same day when Mars will reach its opposition. It’s when it is going to shine at its best in the night sky. This month, the planet Mars is going to be at its closest to Earth since 2003. Mars it is going to reach that closest point on the 31st of July.

What is the Blood Moon of the 27th of July?

Lunar eclipses happen when the Moon passes into the shadow of the Earth. Unlike with solar eclipses, you will need some specialized equipment to observe this phenomenon. It is safe to view directly with the naked eye, telescopes or binoculars.

During eclipses, the moon turns deep red or reddish-brown, instead of going completely dark.

This huge event happens because some of the sunlight that goes through the atmosphere of the Earth is bent around the edge of our planet and falls onto the surface of the Moon. The air of the Earth also scatters more shorter-wavelength light, in some colors such as green or blue; what is left is the longer-wavelength, redder end of the spectrum.

Where and when the total Lunar Eclipse is going to be visible?

Unfortunately, because of the timing, the eclipse will be not visible from North America. Much of the Eastern Hemisphere will see part or all of the eclipse. Africa, Middle East, and some countries in Central Asia will observe the whole Lunar Eclipse. The Lunar Eclipse will be visible from eastern South America as it is ending and from Australia as it starts.

According to EarthSky.org, the time of the greatest eclipse is going to be 4:21 p.m. EDT (2021 GMT) on the 27th of July.

The total Lunar Eclipse is going to last from 3:30 p.m. to 5:13 p.m. EDT (1930 to 2113 GMT). Including the penumbral time, the total Lunar Eclipse is going to last for 3 hours and 55 minutes.

Why is this the longest Lunar Eclipse of the 21st century?

Noah Petro told Space.com:

The position of the Moon, when it goes through the shadow of the Earth, is actually what controls the duration time of the Lunar Eclipse. The darkest part of the shadow of the Earth is called the umbra. You can imagine the umbra as a cone extending from Earth in the opposite direction to the Sun.

He added:

The Moon can either gaze through the cone, or it can go through the middle. That actually gets a longer-duration eclipse. This time, the red Moon will pass close to the center of that cone, and it is, therefore, a little bit longer than the eclipse which we had in January.

Also, EarthSky.org pointed out that the Moon is also going to be at a farther point from the Earth along its orbit. That means that the Moon is going to appear slightly smaller in the sky and it is going to take a little bit longer to go through the shadow of the planet Earth.

Noah Petro is also the project scientist for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) of NASA, which was orbiting the Moon for a whole nine years.

It is best known for orbiting detailed information on water ice, as well as taking high-resolution pictures of spacecraft on the lunar surface.

As LRO is an older probe, most of the components that it has are going to be turned off during the time of the eclipse, except for battery warmers and the like, in order to preserve the solar-powered battery of the spacecraft and keep it safe at the time of the most significant part of the eclipse, explained Petro.

When is the next Lunar Eclipse going to happen?

The next total Lunar Eclipse will be visible from North America, and it is going to happen on the 21st of January, 2019.

The totality on that day is going to last 1 hour and 2 minutes, and the eclipse is mainly going to favor viewers on the West Coast. In that same year, there will also be a partial eclipse, which will happen on the 16th of July – the 50th anniversary of the launch of the first Moon landing mission, Apollo 11. LRO will probably still be operating then, having passed its 10th anniversary of arriving at the Moon on the 23rd of July, 2019.

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