Blood moon not the only spectacle set to appear over Ireland on Friday

24 Jul 2018

Blood moon seen in Jerusalem in 2014. Image: ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock

While a stunning blood moon will be the highlight of the stargazing extravaganza this Friday, there are three other spectacles you should watch out for.

The entire world – bar North America – is getting ready for a night-time spectacle unlike any other this century in the form of a ‘blood moon’, otherwise known as a lunar eclipse.

Set to take place on Friday (27 July), the lunar eclipse will see the moon and the sun perfectly align, with Earth caught right in the middle.

With sunlight blocked, the moon will be bathed in a red glow instead, giving it its familiar name.

While blood moons aren’t as rare as a total solar eclipse, for example, this lunar eclipse is set to be truly special as it will be the longest of the 21st century, spanning a timeframe of more than 40 minutes with a partial eclipse period of around four hours.

For those in Ireland, the key time to remember is 9.32pm as this is the point when the maximum eclipse is reached and it will continue until 10.13pm. Afterwards, it will be more than a full hour (11.19pm) before the remaining partial eclipse ends.

Unlike a solar eclipse, you won’t need to wear any eye protection to observe it.

The stargazing doesn’t end there, though, because alongside the blood moon in the sky, there will be three other things you should definitely keep an eye out for.

‘What more could you want?’

The first is the planet Mars, which will appear at maximum brightness right below the blood moon.

To put things into perspective, the last time the Red Planet was this large in the night’s sky was in 2003 at a time when the distance between our two planets was just 56 million km.

Secondly, in the south-west part of the starry sky, keep an eye out for the gas giant Jupiter, which is set to have great visibility until 12.28am on Saturday morning.

And finally, the other thing to see darting across the sky will be humankind’s largest spacecraft, the International Space Station, which will be visible over Ireland for a period of six minutes at 11.05pm. It will appear from the west before disappearing over the east-southeasterly direction.

Speaking of what’s in store, Robin Scagell, vice-president of the Society for Popular Astronomy, said: “A total lunar eclipse, Mars, Jupiter and the International Space Station. What more could you want?”

Blood moon seen in Jerusalem in 2014. Image: ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic