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Everything you need to know about the century’s longest blood moon lunar eclipse

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Written by
Nicola Dowse
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Melburnians will be up in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday July 28 to see the longest-lasting blood moon eclipse of the century. To get the lowdown on what’s happening up there, we consulted astronomer Tanya Hill from Scienceworks’s Planetarium and found out everything you need to know about the July 28 lunar eclipse.

Why should I care?
Unless you live to be exceptionally old, you will never see another eclipse as long as this. With a totality (full eclipse) of one hour and 43 minutes, the July 28 eclipse is almost as long as physically possible (one hour 47 minutes is the maximum time). It’s also the last full lunar eclipse until May 2021. This eclipse is also happening while Mars is in opposition, making for a great photo.

Why is it so long in duration?
Three factors are combining to make this a marathon lunar eclipse. During July, Earth is the farthest from the sun, making the darkest part of Earth’s shadow (the umbra) longer. The moon is also at its apogee (furthest distance from Earth), meaning it is moving slower, and will be going deep into the Earth’s shadow. All these factors combine to create a one hour and 43 minute total lunar eclipse.

Why will the moon turn red?
Did you know that Earth’s shadow is not actually black? Due to how the Sun’s light is absorbed and refracted by our atmosphere (and how many pollutants are in it at any time), our planet’s shadow varies in colour from orange to deep red. When the Moon is entirely covered by Earth’s shadow, and there’s no bright sunlight landing on it, you can see the shadow’s true colour – often a deep, blood red.

How do I see it best?
Just like the Sun, the Moon rises in the east and sets in the west. The July 28 eclipse will occur while the moon is setting, so for the best view you’ll want an unobstructed view of the western horizon. Take a look at some of our recommended stargazing spots if you need inspiration. You’ll be able to see the eclipse with your naked eye, but a telescope or even good binoculars can upgrade your experience.

What else should I be looking up for?
All five 'naked-eye' planets will be visible between October 10 and 20 – pop outside on a clear night to spot Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Mercury and Saturn. From October 2 to November 7 you can also view the Orionids, a meteor shower made up of Halley’s Comet debris, and between December 4 to 17 you can see the Geminids meteor shower.

The July 28 lunar eclipse will start at 4.24am and end when the moon sets at 7.29am.

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