Published: Fri, July 27, 2018
Sci-tech | By Jackie Newman

The blood moon lunar eclipse is here (and so is Mars)

Nigeria will on Friday night experience a spectacular total lunar eclipse, which will last for one hour, a professor, Augustine Ubachukwu, has said.

Mars will add to the spectacle shining brightly below the blood moon as it reaches perihelic opposition - where the Red Planet and the sun are on directly opposite sides of Earth.

Chandra Grahan or Total Lunar Eclipse date is July 27 night. He encouraged people to view the eclipse that will last approximately 103 minutes.

Friday night's lunar eclipse will be more than 20 minutes longer than the last one, which occurred earlier this year on January 31.

And there's one more twist: The absolutely closest distance this time around won't come at the precise time of opposition on Friday, when the sun, Earth and Mars are in a flawless line.

Also, on July 27, Mars will pass closer to Earth than it has done for 15 years. This period of complete lunar eclipse - known as "totality", is the time when the moon appears darkest or reddish in colour.

During the total eclipse - due to begin at 7.30am - the moon would appear much fainter than it usually appeared, and coloured between dark brown and blood red.

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The eclipse will be visible in its entirety from the Indian Ocean and surrounding countries, from India to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Mars will next be this close to earth in 2035. But the bending (refraction) of the rays of light caused by our atmosphere makes it feasible to see both the eclipsed Moon and the Sun at the same time - so long as you are in the right place.

Candid snaps over London on Thursday night showed the moon in shades of yellow, deepening into orange, by stargazers already enjoying the extremely rare event.

However, forecasters at the Met Office have warned there is a likelihood of "high-level" cloud in the area around the time the moon is set to appear, which could obscure the view of it. One might think this to be impossible - because an eclipse occurs when the Sun, Earth and Moon are in a straight line, and so if the Moon is above the horizon then the Sun must surely be below it.

This happens because blue light undergoes stronger atmospheric scattering, so red light will be the most dominant color highlighted as sunlight passes through our atmosphere and casts it on the moon. And totality, which will occur over Africa, the Middle East and part of Asia, will last an hour and 43 minutes, making it the longest one in 100 years. The moon will be in ideal alignment with the sun and Earth on Friday, with the moon on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun.

"Mars will look like this handsome bright red star just below the Moon", said Prof O'Brien. Astronomers say, Mars will be visible with the naked eye.

Friday's eclipse is the first to be visible from Ireland since September 2015 and will be the longest of this century.

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