Prepare your alarm clocks for an early start on Saturday July 28, because we’re in for the longest lunar eclipse of the century – that is also a blood Moon. From 3.14am on July 28, Sydneysiders can look to the sky to watch the Earth’s shadow roll over the Moon, darkening its surface for 103 minutes. If you live on the east coast, keen Aussie astronomers should aim to be up and stargazing by 5.30am to watch the beginning of the total eclipse – or at least out of bed by 6.21am when the Moon will be completely eclipsed by the darkest part of the Earth’s shadow, the umbra.
Like to party into the early hours? Keep your Friday night going till the following morning to catch the penumbral phase of eclipse at 3.14am – where the shadow beings to shade the surface – moving into a partial eclipse by 4.24am.
Compared to the lunar events we saw in January, a smaller moon will be the star of this longer celestial display. Associate professor with the Sydney Institute for Astronomy John O’Byrne says the differences come down to three factors.
“For this eclipse the Moon is slightly further away in its orbit, so it makes that moon a little bit smaller compared to the size of the Earth’s shadow,” he tells us.
The Earth is also further from the Sun at this time of year, making the shadow appear larger. With light filtered and refracted through the Earth’s atmosphere, the Moon will also be painted in a dramatic red hue, making it a ‘blood Moon’.
O’Byrne says recent volcanic eruptions could make this a particularly raunchy colour, he says, “The redder it is usually indicates more dust and clouds in the atmosphere. So it’ll be interesting to see how dark and red it will be with the recent activity.”
While he suggest the middle of the Indian Ocean would provide the best vantage point to spy on the Moon for this rare moment, the professor says you can marvel at the eclipse from most parts of the city, but it’s best to aim west.
“Find somewhere away from direct obtrusive street lighting. Because it’s going [to happen] to be when the moon is setting, you’d like to have a clear western sky, without trees or buildings in the way.”
Follow in the footsteps of other astronomers and head to Observatory Hill Park for a picture-perfect view, or watch the Moon dive into the water from Leichhardt Park. Or, you could catch the start of the eclipse from the rooftop terrace at Webster’s Bar – they’re open till 4am.
Need more dazzling action in July? Find 53 things to do this month.