The Moon is incredible, and you should look at it. Our view of it is always in flux, but sometimes, the Moon’s visage changes in a particularly dramatic way—like when it sneaks behind the Earth’s shadow and turns red. An especially long lunar eclipse will occur at the end of next month (July 27), which is exciting news for most of the world. People in North America, however, will not be able to see it.
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Take a look. If your country is dark on the map, the eclipse will not be visible to you.
Why am I emphasizing this? Well, I read a whole lot of science news, and if you do too, you know that lunar eclipse fever has already begun. This means that news outlets are publishing all sort of articles explaining what an eclipse is, how it looks, and, in some cases, how it will herald the end of the world.
If you’re reading headlines from the US of A, you might think you’ll have a chance to see this most recent eclipse. You won’t, since the total eclipse will occur from roughly 3:30 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. EST (12:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. PST). You will have an opportunity to watch the eclipse online, at the Virtual Telescope Project, timeanddate.com, and elsewhere.
If that’s enough to get you excited, (or if you’re in any other part of the world), the eclipse is certainly noteworthy. At about 105 minutes duration, it’s the longest lunar eclipse of the century. The cause is the same reason that lunar eclipses don’t occur every full moon: The moon’s orbital plane moves up and down. This time around, the moon will pass near the darkest part of Earth’s shadow—if you imagine the shadow as a big circle, the moon’s path will nearly cut the circle in half.
As for why the Moon turns red, it’s because sunlight is still refracted and bent around the Earth’s atmosphere—which scatters the blue light, so only red light shines through. The moon retains the eerie glow, even in the shadows.
If you’re pissed at me for killing the fun, have no fear. The US will be able to see an eclipse on January 21, 2019.
Former Gizmodo physics writer and founder of Birdmodo, now a science communicator specializing in quantum computing and birds