Lunar eclipse: How to watch the blood moon and Mars this Friday

A NASA image of a “blood moon” blushing red.

NASA

A good chunk of the world will get a firsthand look at a beautiful astronomical occurrence on July 27, when a “blood moon” and Mars appear together in the night sky. 

Those outside the viewing zone can catch the event online through the Virtual Telescope Project.

Friday’s red moon comes as part of the longest total lunar eclipse of the century. The sun, Earth and moon will line up and our planet will cast a reddish shadow onto our lunar buddy. That’s how it gets the dramatic-sounding “blood moon” nickname. 

Mars will also be part of the show because the Red Planet and sun will be on opposite sides of Earth, a phenomenon know as Mars opposition. Mars will be nearing its closest approach to Earth since 2003, making it look very bright in the sky. Its appearance near the blood moon after sunset will give viewers a double vision in red.

The eclipse will be visible in parts of Australia, Asia, Africa, South America and Europe. Sorry, North America, you’ll need to watch online instead. 

The Virtual Telescope Project will set up shop at the Roman Forum on the Palatine Hill in Rome with a livestream camera facing the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine. That should make for quite a dramatic backdrop. The livestream starts on Friday at 11:30 a.m. PT.

This will be a great way for North Americans to get a glimpse of the event. And it can also be a back-up option for people in the eclipse viewing zone in case of cloudy skies.

Currently, the weather forecast for Rome calls for clear conditions on Friday. If that holds, then the Virtual Telescope Project view of Mars and the moon should be spectacular.

And if you can’t catch this blood moon, don’t worry. The next one comes in January and will be visible from Europe and the Americas.

First published July 23, 10:50 a.m. PT. 
Update, July 26, 12:35 p.m. PT.: Adds additional information on the lunar eclipse and when the next blood moon will be visible. 

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