Star-gazers are set for a night-time spectacle as a blood moon lunar eclipse will be making an appearance this evening.
The UK will have one of the best views of the eclipse in the world at dusk tonight (Friday July 27), as the moon turns blood red for hours.
The spectacle will be visible across Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, South America and the Middle East, but not North America.
What is a total lunar eclipse?
An eclipse occurs when the Earth comes between the moon and the sun, causing the Earth’s shadow to cover the moon.
During a total lunar eclipse, the Earth blocks light from the sun and it turns a reddish colour due to sunlight bending through the Earth’s atmosphere.
Short wavelengths like blue and violet bounce off the Earth, while longer wavelengths like red and orange pass through, leading the moon to glow in those colours.
When will we see the lunar eclipse?
The moon will rise in the south-east first, at around 8.50pm in London, and the eclipse will continue until early on Saturday.
It is safe to look at a lunar eclipse without any protective eyewear.
The eclipse will reach maximum totality at 9.21pm and finish at 10.31pm, though the partial eclipse will continue for another two hours after that.
The eclipse on Friday is set to be the longest of the 21st Century, as the full moon happens to coincide next month with the point at which the moon’s orbit is furthest away from the earth, so it will take longer to pass through the earth’s shadow.
“It will last several hours – when you get a real feeling of the Earth and moon shifting in space,” astronomer Tom Kerss, of the Royal Observatory Greenwich, which will live stream the eclipse, told The Guardian.
“You get a true sense of the solar system moving – and that in itself is a really dramatic experience.”
Do you need special glasses to look at the moon?
Protective eyewear was recommended during the recent solar eclipse to protect people’s eyes from the sun’s bright light.
However, during a lunar eclipse the glow from the moon is not nearly as strong.
It is safe to look at the spectacle without any additional protection.
Some say the lunar eclipse is the end of the world Doomsday preachers have been suggesting that the blood moon heralds the end of the world, as biblical passages talk about the moon turning the colour of blood prior to the apocalypse.
But you may not need to repent and build your underground shelter just yet.
Scientists have perfectly adequate explanations for the phenomenon other than impending armageddon.
Recent red skies are apparently down to the specific scattering of light particles through the atmosphere.
A ‘blood moon’, meanwhile, gets its name from the reddish hue it turns when the moon passes through the earth’s shadow during a lunar eclipse.
If you take a photo of the lunar eclipse we’d love to see it and publish a slideshow of the best pics. Send a jpeg to our Head of Digital.
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