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Eclipse 2018: Is Mars being the closest it has ever been to Earth connected to Blood Moon?

On the night of Friday, July 27, stargazers will witness two relatively rare celestial events in the sky.

Firstly, the July full moon will pass through the Earth’s shadow during a total lunar eclipse and reemerge as the red-glowing Blood Moon.

Secondly, the Red Planet will be at its closest and brightest to Earth in 15 years.

Mars is now slowly moving towards opposition, an orbital point where it sits directly opposite the sun from Earth’s point of view.

During opposition the planet will bask in direct sunlight, making it incredibly easy to spot among the stars with the naked eye.

Because Mars and Earth orbit the sun at different speeds and distances, their orbits are hardly aligned.

But every two years or so, the two planets appear to form a straight line with the sun with the Earth in the middle – the celestial event dubbed opposition.

When Mars reached opposition in 2003, the Red Planet was at is closest to Earth it has been in 60,000 years.

Eclipse 2018: Blood Moon and Mars opposition  GETTY

Eclipse 2018: The Blood Moon coincides with Mars at opposition

This year the planet will not approach as close but, according to SkyEarth founder and astronomer Deborah Byrd, Mars will still “appear as a red dot of brilliant flame in our sky”.

In 2018, Mars won’t be quite as bright as it was in 2003. But nearly

Deborah Byrd,

She wrote on “Remember Mars in 2003? That was the year the red planet came closer to Earth than it had been in some 60,000 years.

“Mars can be faint, or it can be a bright planet. It can outshine most stars.

“But, in 2003, for a few months, Mars was exceedingly spectacular in our sky, outshining all the stars and planets except brilliant Venus.

“In 2018, Mars won’t be quite as bright as it was in 2003. But nearly.”

But what about the total lunar eclipse at the end of the month? Is it in anyway connected to Mars at opposition?

Unfortunately the timing of the two events is a pure but exciting coincidence.

Total lunar eclipses occur roughly about twice a year and the last total eclipse fell on the night of January 31 this year – the Super Blue Blood Moon combo.

Scientists at ’s Goddard Space Flight Center explained: “Like clockwork the full moon appears every month in our skies – a sight so familiar that we often take it for granted.

Eclipse 2018: Mars at opposition GETTY

Eclipse 2018: Mars will be at its closest point to Earth in 15 years

“But about twice a year over the course of a few hours the full moon sports a decidedly different look. What causes this sudden change?

“A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes through the Earth’s shadow just as a solar eclipse when part of the Earth passes through the moon’s shadow.”

Twice a month the moon lines up directly with the sun on ether side of the planet – the full moon and the new moon.

But despite this, eclipses do not happen twice a month but rather twice a year.

This happens because the moon’s orbit around the planet is slightly titled relative to the sun.

Eclipse 2018: Blood Moon lunar eclipseGETTY

Eclipse 2018: The Blood Moon will appear during the July 27 total lunar eclipse

About twice a year however, the moon’s position relative to the sun and the stars changes just enough to pass through Earth’s shadow.

When the this happens the moon is eclipsed and refracted sunlight in the atmosphere paints it a deep red or orange hue.

This year in particular astronomers are excited because the total lunar eclipse will be the single longest eclipse of the 21st century.

The Blood Moon eclipse will clock in at a whopping one hour and 43 minutes – almost 40 minutes longer than the January eclipse.


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