The longest total lunar eclipse of the 21st century is coming this week.
It’s a chance to enjoy an amazing cosmic phenomenon taking place right above us in Malta and Gozo.
Who can forget the celestial spectacle of 2015, as we all gathered to watch Europe’s biggest solar eclipse since 1999?.
And the good news for Maltese stargazers is that there is another total eclipse on Friday.
The silvery moon will turn a blood red and spend a whopping 103 minutes in the Earth’s shadow.
So where can you see it in Malta?
Here’s all you need to know.
When is the next total eclipse?
There will be a total lunar eclipse on Friday 27 July.
It is set to be the longest lunar eclipse of the 21st century because the moon is at one of its furthest points from the Earth, making it appear smaller – this means more of its surface will be blacked out than usually happens.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon moves on the opposite side of the earth to the sun. It’s then in the earth’s shadow.
The last total lunar eclipse visible from Malta happened on 28 September 2015.
So where will this eclipse be visible?
Astronomers say the eclipse will be visible throughout most of Europe, Africa, Asia and Western Australia.
In the Maltese Islands, we are set for an excellent view of the lunar eclipse, weather permitting.
People in Malta can first see the eclipse happening at around 8.24pm on Friday evening, as the Earth’s shadow moves across the moon.
The eclipse actually starts before then but the moon will be below the horizon so we won’t be able to see it until later.
The eclipse will reach maximum or totality at around 9.20pm and ends at around 12.20am on Saturday.
That’s a visible eclipse duration of around three hours.
Where’s a good place to watch it in Malta?
Stargazers anywhere in Malta should be able to view the eclipse, weather permitting.
You could just lean out the window, or head to somewhere you’re most likely to get a clear view of the night’s sky.
Several rural areas are likely to afford people the best opportunity to watch the eclipse, such as near Dingli Cliffs, Armier Bay, Gnejna Bay or the Gozo countryside.
Fort St Elmo in Valletta will host a special event on Friday evening.
Astrophysicist Professor Kristian Zarb Adami from the Institute for Space Science and Astronomy has organised the activity.
He said: ‘This total lunar eclipse promises to transform Friday evening.
‘Unlike solar eclipses this phenomenon is completely safe to see through the naked eye plus you have plenty of time to savour the majestic dance of heavenly bodies since it will last one hour and 43 minutes.’
Those attending Friday’s event can use the telescopes on site to witness the eclipse and zoom in on other planets such Mars, Saturn and Jupiter.
Do I need special equipment to watch it?
Unlike solar eclipses, which are dangerous to look at directly, there are no safety measures you need to take to protect yourself when viewing a lunar eclipse as the light is much dimmer.
You could get binoculars or a telescope out for a closer look, but all you really need is the naked eye.
How go I take the best picture in Malta?
- Stay away from bright lights
- Try and pick a spot marked by interesting buildings or trees so the moon shows up in comparison
- Keep the flash off
- If you’re using your phone use your finger to focus the camera on where the moon is
- The moon is actually moving so for a clear picture use an app that has a quick shutter speed
- Tripods, zoom lenses and all the extra bits aren’t really needed but will help keep you steady and get a better close-up
This will be the second lunar eclipse of 2018 – the last one occurred in January.