Stargazers are in for some beautiful events in the near future. July’s blood moon / lunar eclipse, which will occur the night of July 27, is one of the first events. Although astronomers and hobbyists in North America won’t be able to catch even a glimpse of the lunar eclipse — other than online — there are several other major events to look forward to.
July’s blood moon will be the longest of the 21st century
The next lunar eclipse, which is occurring with a blood moon this time, will last three hours and 55 minutes. However, totality (the time the moon is totally blocked by Earth’s shadow) will last one hour and 43 minutes. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon, Earth and sun are aligned. During that time, Earth casts a shadow over the moon, keeping its light from reaching Earth.
Those who live in Africa, the Middle East, southern Asia and around the Indian Ocean will have the best view of July’s blood moon. As Space.com reports, July’s blood moon can be seen from eastern South America toward the end of the eclipse, while those in Australia can see it as it begins. The lunar eclipse will occur at 4:21 p.m. Eastern on July 27, while totality will last from 3:30 to 5:13 p.m. Eastern.
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Unlike with a solar eclipse, watching a lunar eclipse doesn’t require any special equipment to protect the eyes. The Virtual Telescope Project will also hold a live-stream of the event, which will begin at 2:30 p.m. Eastern.
People in North America will have to wait until the next total lunar eclipse on Jan. 21. The best views are likely to be for those living on the West Coast. There will also be solar eclipses on July 2, 2019 and Dec. 14, 2020.
Annual Perseid meteor shower
In August, we will also witness the return of the Perseid meteor shower, which is considered one of the best night shows each year. The Perseid meteors will be active in the night sky from July 14 to Aug. 24, with the meteor shower’s peak activity occurring on Aug. 11 and Aug. 12. According to NASA, these meteors are considered to have the largest intensity because up to 100 meteors can be seen each hour.
The Perseids originate from the comet 109P/Swift-Turtle, and they become visible in the night sky when Earth passes through the its debris. The comet was initially discovered in 1862. The last passing of the comet through the inner solar system occurred in 1992 and left behind a lot of debris that reaches our planet each summer. When the debris hits Earth’s atmosphere, it burns up, creating wonderful streaks in the night sky.
In the northern hemisphere, the Perseids are best seen just before dawn. The meteors originate from the constellation Perseus, which can be found when looking northeast in the sky. The best views can be seen outside major cities where light pollution doesn’t wash out the meteors’ lights.
Even though Earth completes two orbits in the time it takes Mars to complete one, there are times when the orbits of the two planets sync, positioning Mars and the sun on opposite sides of Earth. This event is called Mars opposition, and it will start during July’s blood moon on July 27. The Red Planet’s closest approach to Earth will be at 3:50 a.m. Eastern on July 31.
At its closest approach, Mars will be located about 35.8 million miles from Earth. If the weather allows, astronomers in the northern hemisphere will be able to see the Red Planet in the southeastern sky any time after nightfall. The best time to look at it will be around midnight, when Mars moves higher in the sky.