We spent a wonderful evening on Friday, 27 July (2018) watching the longest lunar eclipse of the 21st century! We were so looking forward to this celestial event, and we were not disappointed! In South Africa we were lucky enough to be in the path of totality, and could enjoy the total lunar eclipse from start to finish.
Even though it’s still winter, the weather, surprisingly (or luckily!), was not too cold, the moon was full and brightly lit to start with, and the night sky was clear and beautiful, despite some city lights around us. We chose a nice, quiet spot in our garden, dressed warmly and camped out for the evening with a platter of cheese and crackers, and some wine. Our camera and binoculars were out, and we were all set to enjoy a romantic evening under the stars, with no charge or entrance fees, or dressing up required!
A lunar eclipse only occurs on the night of a full moon, when the moon passes directly behind the Earth and into its shadow. Because the Earth blocks all direct sunlight from reaching the moon, and the only light reflected by the lunar surface is refracted by the Earth’s atmosphere, the Moon appears to be red, hence the name: a blood red moon (you can read more about lunar eclipses here).
Even though this is the longest total lunar eclipse of the century, lasting a total of 6 hours and 14 minutes, we felt like the evening was just gone too soon! Perhaps it’s because we enjoyed ourselves so much, and with winter nearing its end, this evening for us signalled that relaxed summer nights in the garden, underneath the sky, are coming soon, as we are now absolutely ready to shed the blankets, and the jackets.
I tried not to spend too much time taking photos though, rather savouring each moment, and enjoying seeing the changes as the moon slowly turned from bright, and illuminated to a dimmed dark orange, and then an even darker blood red. If you stared through the binoculars long enough, it was as if you could actually feel the moon suspended in nothingness, this bright and huge ball of orange-red, and this was quite the experience, this feeling, and perhaps a bit scary too. Throughout, Mars was clearly visible, appearing closer, and bright, bright, bright to the naked eye.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the total lunar eclipse on Friday night, as much as we did.
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Disclaimer: the two wonderful photos of the total lunar eclipse / blood red moon as seen in South Africa on 27th July are courtesy of © Dave Ingold, and shared on this blog with permission.