LUNAR ECLIPSE AND MARTIAN CONJUNCTION: Friday, July 27th, is a big night for astronomy. Three reasons: First, Mars will be at opposition -directly opposite the sun and making a 15-year close approach to Earth. Second, Mars and the full Moon will be in conjunction – less than 10 degrees apart. Third, the Moon will pass through the shadow of Earth, producing the longest lunar eclipse in a century:
Almost everyone on Earth (except North Americans) can see the eclipse as the sunset-colored shadow of our planet swallows the Moon for almost 2 hours. During totality, the Moon will turn almost the same red color as Mars right beside it – an incredible sight.
This total lunar eclipse is the second of the 3 eclipses that have already (solar eclipse on July 13, 2018) or will occur (July 27th: total eclipse of the Moon and August 11th: partial solar eclipse) within 1 month between July and August 2018.
Because Mars is opposite the sun, it will rise at sunset and stay up all night long. The best time to look is around midnight when the Moon-Mars pair will be at their highest in the sky. The Red Planet will have no trouble being seen through the glare of the full Moon because Mars itself is so luminous–almost three times brighter than Sirius, the brightest star in the sky.
People in North America will not be able to see the eclipse. The shadow play happens mostly on the opposite side of the world. They can, however, witness the conjunction. Swinging a backyard telescope between the Moon and Mars in quick succession will reveal the dusty-red martian disk alongside lunar mountains and craters. It’s a special night. Enjoy the show!