Full Moon, Lunar Eclipse and Mars’ Closest Approach to Earth in 15 Years All Happening Friday Night

Published Friday, July 27, 2018 at 1:54 pm

By Nathan Ham

Friday night will be a special night for astronomers and anyone that likes to keep an eye toward the sky.

July 27 will mark the longest lunar eclipse this century, thus bringing with it what astronomers like to refer to as a Blood Moon because of the way the moon will appear to be slightly darker and have more of an orange tint to it, thanks to the sun’s light and the reflection of light from Earth’s atmosphere.

Unfortunately for those of us in the United States and all of North America, the lunar eclipse will not be visible as it will be taking place during daylight hours here. Places in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia will have some fantastic views of what will end up being the longest lunar eclipse so far in the 21st century. The eclipse is expected to last nearly four hours and the maximum eclipse level lasting one hour, 42 minutes and 57 seconds, that according to NASA.

This total lunar eclipse is still even more unique than past lunar eclipses. Not only will the moon be at its fullest phase, it is also at its most distant point from earth. Astronomers coin this moon as a “Minimoon.” The next time all of these factors will come together will be about 105 years from now on June 9, 2123.

For those of you disappointed that you won’t be able to see the lunar eclipse, you will still have something to look at in the night sky.

The sun, Earth and Mars will be aligned in a straight line. This happens once about every 26 months. Also, since Mars orbits in a much more elliptical pattern, its distance to the Earth and the sun can vary quite a bit during its orbit. It just so happens that Mars will be making its closest approach to earth this year on July 31 at 35.8 million miles. The combination of the three planets being in a straight line and Mars coming this close to Earth will not happen again until 2035. All of these factors will combine to give us all the biggest and brightest shining look at Mars since August of 2003.

Anyone interested in seeing the lunar eclipse can watch it online at Virtual Telescope.

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