What a total lunar eclipse this will be! There’s good news and bad news…..

The good news is that Mars will be very bright and will appear just above and to the left of the beautiful sight of the blood red Moon. Plus, the core of our Milky Way Galaxy will stretch across the the western horizon. It’s a dream for our astrophotography community. The images will be incredible!

The bad news? It happens very early in the morning! You’ll need to set your alarm to wake in the middle of a cold winter’s night in Western Australia!

What Time is the Total Lunar Eclipse and Where do I Look?

In WA, the Total Lunar Eclipse begins at 3.30am and ends at 5.14am in the early hours of Saturday morning, 28th July 2018. Look towards the west. Here are the precise details:

Saturday, 28 July 2018
2.24am – Partial eclipse begins.
Watch as Earth’s shadow starts to move across the lunar surface.
3.30am – Total eclipse begins.
The Moon is completely in the shadow of Earth!
4.22am – Greatest eclipse (mid eclipse).
See how reddish coloured the Moon becomes. Mars will look so bright and red-coloured to match the Moon! Why is Mars so bright? Read more below.
5.14am – Total eclipses ends.
Well done if you’re still up! Break out the hot chocolate! The sky will start to get brighter as the Sun rises.
6.19am – Partial eclipse ends.
High fives all round. What a wonderful astronomical event to see!
7.09am – The Sun rises in the east.
7.17am – The Moon sets in the west.

Why is Mars so Bright?

It’s a great time to view Mars with telescopes or to see it with your naked eye. At the same time as the Total Lunar Eclipse, Mars is at what astronomers call “opposition” which means that Mars will be as close to Earth as it gets this year.

Mars is at opposition every 26 months. We orbit the Sun faster than Mars and every 26 months we catch up to Mars in its orbit.

This year is rather special. At opposition, sometimes Mars is further away from Earth than other times of opposition. At the May 2016 opposition Mars was 75.3 million kms away from Earth. At this year’s July 2018 opposition, Mars will be 57.6 million kms away from Earth. At the next opposition in October 2020, Mars will be 62.1 million kms away.

It won’t be until September 2035 that we’ll see Mars get closer to Earth again. In 2035, Mars will be 57.1 million kms away.

So enjoy this year’s opposition of Mars! It’s made all the more special because of the beautiful Total Lunar Eclipse occurring at approximately the same time.

Before the Total Lunar Eclipse, head on down to the Black Friday Planet Party on 13th July 2018! See Mars up close and personal through telescopes. Jupiter, Saturn and Venus will also make an appearance!