A blood moon will dominate the sky across much of the world on Friday night when the Earth’s natural satellite moves into the shadow of our planet for the longest lunar eclipse of the 21st century.
The total eclipse will last 1 hour, 42 minutes and 57 seconds, though a partial eclipse precedes and follows, meaning the moon will spend a total of 3 hours and 54 minutes in the earth’s umbral shadow, according to NASA.
Across the world, from the Taj Mahal to the Eiffel Tower, people will turn their eyes to the sky, hoping to see the blood moon, which appears orange, brown or crimson as sunlight is bent through the earth’s atmosphere.
The fullest eclipse, at 8.22 p.m. GMT, will be visible from Europe, Russia, Africa, the Middle East, much of Asia and Australia.
In Greece, the phenomenon is expected to start at around 10.30 p.m.
“It’s called a blood moon because the light from the sun goes through the earth’s atmosphere on its way to the moon, and the earth’s atmosphere turns it red in the same way that when the sun goes down it goes red,” Andrew Fabian, professor of astronomy at the University of Cambridge, told Reuters.
At the same time, Mars will be traveling closer to earth than it has been since 2003, so some observers may be able to see what looks like an orange-red star – and is in fact the red planet.
“It is a very unusual coincidence to have a total lunar eclipse and Mars at opposition on the same night,” said Robert Massey, deputy executive director of the Royal Astronomical Society, who will try to watch the eclipse from the Mediterranean Sea.
For thousands of years, man has looked to the heavens for omens of doom, victory and joy. Astronomers, though, said there was no cause for worry.
“There is no reason to believe that blood moons foretell doom,” said Massey. “This does not herald the apocalypse: seeing a lunar eclipse and Mars in the sky is something people should enjoy rather than worry about medieval superstitions.”
The next lunar eclipse of such a length is due in 2123. [Reuters]