All eyes to the sky; the longest ‘blood moon’ of the 21st century will grace the sky tonight. Here’s what you need to know to enjoy it best. By Shikha Pushpan

 

People around the world are eagerly waiting to witness the moon transform into a giant red ball tonight when the longest lunar eclipse of the century takes place for nearly 103 minutes.

According to NASA, people anywhere on earth, except for North America, will be able to watch the event. In India, the first part of the lunar eclipse will start around 23:44 IST when the moon falls partially under the earth’s shadow, becoming invisible in the darkness. Thereafter, the total lunar eclipse, will set in from 1 am IST on July 28. This is the point when the moon will turn red in what will be the highest point of the eclipse. The phenomenon will last till 2:43 am, after which the moon will begin to move outside the earth’s shadow. People all over India will be able to witness the eclipse if the cloudy weather does not play spoilsport.

Watching the lunar eclipse comes highly recommended since the next total lunar eclipse will occur on September 7, 2025, according to NASA.

 

What makes the moon turn red?

During a lunar eclipse, the earth blocks the sunlight from reaching the moon. However, some indirect sunlight still manages to reach the moon. Since these rays pass through earth’s atmosphere, only red light, which has a longer wavelength is allowed to pass. Other lights with shorter wavelengths, such as blue and yellow are filtered out. That’s why the moon appears red since it can only reflect the red light. Scientists suggest that if the earth did not have an atmosphere, the moon would look black during an eclipse.

These two images of Mars (swipe for a view from 2016) taken by our Hubble Space Telescope (@NASAHubble), show very different views of the same hemisphere roughly two years apart. Both were captured when Mars was near opposition, which occurs about every two years, when Earth’s orbit catches up to Mars’ orbit.

At that time, the Sun, Earth and Mars fall in a straight line, with Mars and the Sun on “opposing” sides of Earth.
The first image, taken on July 18, 2018, features a global dust storm, with spring in the southern hemisphere. You can tell that dust has engulfed the planet by swiping back and forth. Details like craters become more difficult or even impossible to spot. The second image, taken on May 12, 2016, shows a clear atmosphere.
Credit: NASA, ESA, and STScI

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Tonight’s lunar eclipse is coinciding with another celestial event—Mars Opposition, when the sun, earth, and mars fall in a straight line. The red planet will be closest to earth on July 31.