Total Lunar Eclipse – 27 July 2018
On Friday 27 July 2018 the rising Moon will turn red as we experience a total lunar eclipse.
A Celestial Spectacle From The UK
On Friday night, 27 July 2018, we’re in for a celestial spectacle here in the UK, so if the skies are clear head outside and look up!
The main event will be a total lunar eclipse of the Moon. Although we call it an eclipse, the Moon will not completely disappear but instead appear blood red as the Earth blocks the majority of the Sun’s light and its shadow darkens the face of the Moon.
Head outside from around 20:50 Friday evening, weather permitting. Unlike a solar eclipse you will not need any safety filters, and no telescopes required. Just find a clear view of the south eastern sky and watch the Moon rise red!
Later in the evening, you’ll also be able to spot the planets Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. Mars will be especially bright as Friday marks the closest it will be to Earth all year.
What is a total lunar eclipse?
A Total Lunar Eclipse occurs when the path of the Earth brings it directly between the Sun and the Moon, blocking the Sun’s light. As this happens, the face of the Moon darkens. Literally, Earth casts a shadow which falls on the Moon across nearly 400,000 kilometres of space!
Some of the Sun’s light does make it to the Moon, after first filtering and bending through Earth’s atmosphere. This filtered light is mainly from the red end of the spectrum, giving the Moon a reddish hue. The same effect is the reason why sunsets look red – so you can think of a lunar eclipse as the Moon being bathed in the light from a global sunset.
A total lunar eclipse is also known as “Blood Moon” and used to be considered a bad omen by ancient civilisations.
Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter
Friday night is also a fantastic chance to check out Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter in the night sky. Each of these planets can be seen with the naked eye as bright points in the south eastern sky. Look for them low over the horizon once the sky darkens, from around 10-11pm.
Mars will look especially bright – Friday night marks the closest that Mars will come to Earth all year. This is known as “opposition” and means that Mars and Earth will be aligned, on the same side of the Sun. At its closest to Earth, Mars will be a “mere” 57.7 million kilometres away.
The best time to see Mars will be at 1:15am on Saturday morning when it reaches its highest point in the sky due south. Look for it underneath the Moon.
About the author: Dr Tamela Maciel is the Space Communications Manager at the National Space Centre