On the 27th of July 2018, two amazing highlights will be visible in our sky: a near Mars Opposition and a Total Lunar Eclipse. Two events that are not to be missed. But what should you know before your observation? The where, how and when are detailed below.
1st Highlight: The Longest Lunar Eclipse of this Century
During the night of 27th of July, save the date, because the heavens will put on a show. We, in Europe, will witness the only lunar eclipse of the year. The feeling of awe as the Moon moves into the Earth’s shadow inspires, especially as our satellite begins to shine red. Various media outlets have deemed the event the “blood Moon”, but the color resembles a rusty red, copper red or brown red.
In this phase, we will be able to enjoy the eclipse for an especially long time: 1 hour and 44 minutes. That is a small record, since we will be witnesses to the longest lunar eclipse of the century.
The Moon Will Rise Already Eclipsed
The facts are clear: whenever the full Moon passes into the Earth’s shadow, we get a total lunar eclipse. Most of the time, our path moves past above or below the shadow or grazes the edges of the umbra. On the 27th of July it will be different. The Moon will pass almost perfectly in the middle of the Earth’s shadow (see graphic above), giving us the chance to enjoy an extremely long Lunar Eclipse.
That’s all great, but there is just one problem, which you should keep an eye out for.
As the Moon Rises
At 8:24 PM CET: the Moon will move into the Earth’s shadow, slowly being consumed by darkness and disappearing. We won’t see any of it, since it will all take place before the Moon is in our view. The Moon will first be visible in central Europe at 9 PM.
But Don’t Worry!
We will see our satellite rise above the southeast horizon, just as the best phase is starting. Totality! For the next 104 minutes, we can forget about the world around us. Take out a pair of your favorite binoculars, a telescope, or your camera with a telephoto lens. The Moon will rise further above the horizon, transformation to a fantastic object to see.
Now is the opportunity to get some great photos in combination with a landscape or houses. Tip: look for a spot with a free view of the southeastern horizon.
Further along, the Moon will rise higher, but as a typical Summer Moon does, it will not reach a really high position in the sky.
First contact into umbra 8:24 PM CET
Begin of Totality 9:30 PM CET
End of Totality 11:13 PM
Last contact 12:19 AM CET
2nd Highlight: Mars Opposition
Simultaneously, we can witness another “red phenomenon”: Mars will reach Opposition. Also something of special note, the red planet will only be 57 million km away – an extremely short distance from Earth and something some observers have been waiting on for decades.
The next time a similar event will take place will be in the year 2035! With a diameter of 24″, Mars will appear to be relatively large. Polar caps, Albedo and bright structures will be easily recognizable!
Only drawback: Mars will hang low in the night sky this year. More info about the opposition and how to observe close to the horizon with good results.