Red planet and ‘blood moon’ pair up to dazzle skygazers
PARIS - Agence France-Presse
For about half the world, the moon will be partly or fully in Earth’s shadow from 1714 to 2328 GMT -- six hours and 14 minutes in all.
The period of complete eclipse -- known as “totality”, when the moon appears darkest -- will last from 1930 to 2113 GMT.
“Totality will last for 103 minutes, making it the longest eclipse of the 21st century!” said the Royal Astronomical Society in London.
Our neighboring planet will appear unusually large and bright, a mere 57.7 million kilometers (35.9 million miles) from Earth on its elliptical orbit around the sun.
“We have a rare and interesting conjunction of phenomena,” Pascal Descamps, an astronomer with the Paris Observatory, told AFP.
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.
A total lunar eclipse happens when Earth takes position in a straight line between the moon and sun, blotting out the direct sunlight that normally makes our satellite glow whitish-yellow.
When the three celestial bodies are perfectly lined up, however, the Earth’s atmosphere scatters blue light from the sun while refracting or bending red light onto the moon, usually giving it a rosy blush.
It depends partly on “how cloudy or transparent those parts of the Earth’s atmosphere are which enable sunlight to reach the moon”, he told AFP.
“During a very dark eclipse the moon may be almost invisible.
“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.”
Mars will more likely appear as a very bright star, and viewers will need no protective eye gear.