The longest such astronomical spectacle in over a century, a 'blood moon' eclipse, coupled with Mars' closest approach to Earth in 15 years offers a sight to behold for stargazers lucky enough to be in a less-light polluted island in the Maldives, on Thursday.
For readers already enjoying the long weekend courtesy of 'Independance Day' on July 26th - appreciating the skies tonight is, safe to say, a highly recommended activity by astronomers worldwide.
Being bang in the center of the eclipse for the full duration of the eclipse makes this particular lunar event, a very special one for viewers in the Maldives.
According to BBC UK, as the moon rises during this total eclipse, Earth's natural satellite will glow an 'eerie' red or ruddy brown. The "totality" period, when light from the Moon is totally obscured, will last for one hour, 43 minutes.
For about half the world, the moon will be partly or fully in Earth's shadow from 1:14 p.m. to 7:28 p.m. ET — six hours and 14 minutes in all. The best views will be seen in could be across Eastern Europe, Central and East Africa and South East Asia, from where given clear skies, the entire eclipse will be visible between 21:00 to 22:15 BST.
Experts confirm that the eclipse will take place beginning 10:14 p.m. on 27th July in the Maldives, reaching its maximum at 01:21 a.m. on July 28th, until 04:28 a.m.
The ideal viewing period thus, for the total eclipse phase is from 00:30 a.m. to 2:13 a.m. The duration of the global lunar event is said to be approximately 6 hours and 14 minutes.
On the same night and over the coming days, Mars will be at its closest point to Earth since 2003 - visible as a "bright red star" where skies are clear.
"This is actually almost as long as a lunar eclipse could be," Prof Tim O'Brien, an astrophysicist at University of Manchester, explained BBC.
It coincides not only with Mars's close approach, but with what he described as a "procession of planets" - a line-up of our celestial neighbours that will give skywatchers a particularly good view of Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. The reason Mars is so bright this time is because Mars, Earth and the Sun are in line, and placing Earth in a position to witness its full reflection.
"Mars will look like this beautiful bright red star just below the Moon," said Prof O'Brien.
"And because of the elliptical shape of the orbit, it's even closer than normal; it really is a great time to spot Mars."
Firstly, the Moon does not have any light of its own—it shines because its surface reflects sunlight.
Astronomists clarify that during a total lunar eclipse, the Earth moves between the Sun and the Moon and cuts off the Moon's light supply. When this happens, the surface of the Moon takes on a reddish glow instead of going completely dark.
Often called a 'blood moon' these vivid hues are explained by phenomenon called Rayleigh scattering. It is the same mechanism responsible for causing colorful sunrises and sunsets, and for the sky to look blue.
BBC's experts state that the precise colour of the moon depends on the atmospheric conditions in Earth’s atmosphere. The clearer the atmosphere, the brighter and lighter the red colour appears to be.
This would mean that if the Earth had no atmosphere then the totally eclipsed moon would be black.
And thus, it is the same mechanism that allows us to be alive, that allows us to witness this glorious celestial show as night falls this Friday night.
The last time Maldives witnessed this long a total eclipse was in 1794.
This will be the second lunar eclipse to be seen in Maldives this year. The next total lunar eclipse will be on January 21, 2019, though it will not be visible to South East Asia.
The next visible clipse will be a partial one, seen between the 16th and 17th of July in 2019. Maldives will not witness another long total eclipse until the year 2141.