The Longest Total Lunar Eclipse In Over 100 Years Is About To Color The Moon Blood Red
A total lunar eclipse, also know as a blood moon, is set to take place on the night of July 27th and the morning of July 28th!
The eclipse will take on an orange-red hue due to sunlight passing through Earth’s atmosphere and bouncing off the moon. This eclipse will be the longest in about a century, lasting nearly one hour and forty-three minutes!
North America will not be able to view this eclipse, since the moon will dip below the horizon, but there are several live video streams from around the world that anyone can watch!
Earth will pass between the sun and the moon, casting a shadow on our ancient orbiting friend.
Here’s how a total lunar eclipse colors the moon red…
Total solar eclipses and total lunar eclipses are very similar, yet opposite things. During a solar eclipse, the moon passes between earth and the sun to cast its shadow on our lonely planet.
The shadow lacks color because the moon does not have an atmosphere. The gases in the atmosphere scatter and refract sunlight.
Earth, obviously, has an atmosphere which causes total lunar eclipses to take on a different color than the total solar eclipses.
Our planet possesses an atmosphere rich with nitrogen. This nitrogen takes the white sunlight, a mix of all colors in the spectrum, and scatters around the blue colors.
This is why the sky appears blue during the day and the sun is a bright yellow. Around sunrise and sunset, the light reaching your eyes has become increasingly scattered, so much so that the blues are almost completely missing.
The lack of blue during sunrise and sunset is what makes the light appear even more red and orange.
The moon is approximately 240,000 miles away from Earth. According to a blog post written by David Diner, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion laboratory:
“If you were standing on the moon’s surface during a lunar eclipse, you would see the sun setting and rising behind the Earth. You’d observe the refracted and scattered solar rays as they pass through the atmosphere surrounding our planet.”
All of that colored light becomes focused on the moon, creating a cone-shaped shadow referred to as the umbra. The umbra is what creates the orange-red color.
Our moon is also coated in an ultra-fine, glassy rock dust know as regolith. Regolith has a very unique characteristic called “backscatter.”
This special property bounces a majority of the light back in the exact same way it came from. In the case of a lunar eclipse, straight towards Earth.
Backscattering is also responsible for the brightness of full moons during other lunar phases.
If you’re looking at the moon during a total lunar eclipse, you’re actually seeing Earth’s refracted sunrise-sunset light being bounce right back at you.
Each lunar eclipse has a different red color due to natural and human related activities that change Earth’s atmosphere.
“Pollution and dust in the lower atmosphere tends to subdue the color of the rising or setting sun, whereas fine smoke particles or tiny aerosols lofted to high altitudes during a major volcanic eruption can deepen the color to an intense shade of red,” Diner stated.
July’s total lunar eclipse will also take place during what is called a “micro” moon, or the opposite of a super moon.
A micro moon takes place because the moon’s orbit isn’t a perfect circle. The moon appears larger at times and smaller at others during its ~30 day orbit around Earth.
Where, When, and How To See The Total Lunar Eclipse
Sorry, but if you live in North America, you’re out of luck this year. The moon will be below your horizon during the total lunar eclipse! You can still watch on a live webcast, though!
If the weather decides to cooperate, most of eastern Africa, the Middle East, and central Asia should be able to witness the full and total lunar eclipse.
Scientist down in Antarctica will also have a spectacular view of this astronomical event!
Europe, Australia, Indonesia, and eastern Asia will at least be able to enjoy a partial lunar eclipse, where the moon will pass partly through the Earth’s shadow.
A map of locations where the total lunar eclipse will be visible during July 27th and 28th, 2018.Fred Espenak/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
The partial eclipse will take place when the moon first makes contact with the penumbra, or outer shadow of planet Earth. According to NASA, that should happen at 17:14 Universal Time on July 27th.
When the moon fully reaches the inside of the red-colored umbra of Earth, the total solar eclipse will start. This should happen around 19:30 UT and end by 21:13 UT.
A full 1 hour and 43 minutes, which is only four minutes short of the longest total lunar eclipse scientifically possible, according to EarthSky.
As soon as the moon passes out of the Earth’s shadow, the partial eclipse will resume. The entire event will end at 23:38 UT (early morning on July 28th, depending on your location).
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Keep your eyes on the sky.
Higher Perspectives Author is one of the authors writing for Higher Perspectives