Let's all get looney about the best lunar eclipse in 100 years
Look up and you'll see an amazing sight tonight. Here's what to expect, and where best to see it
An astronomical treat starring the moon and planets, showing at a night sky near you tonight. And only to be repeated again in 2022.
Enthusiasts are avidly preparing for the lunar eclipse showdown later on Friday night, when the Earth passes between the sun and the moon, casting it into shadow.
Unlike a solar eclipse, this is safe to watch with the naked eye. With the help of a telescope, you will however be able to observe the Galilean moons (the four largest moons of Jupiter), rings of Saturn, Jupiter and the frozen poles and dust storms on Mars, the experts say.
This will also be the longest lunar eclipse in 100 years, says Case Rijsdijk of the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa (ASSA). It is set to start at around 8:24pm and will last until just after midnight.During this period, the moon will change shape and colour. It will be fully eclipsed between 9.30pm to 11.30pm. While it will be faintly lit by light that is refracted from the Earth’s atmosphere – giving it a pale red colour – it will then recover its shape before the eclipse ends at around 12:19am, said Rijsdijk.
Kos Coronaios of the Southern Cape Astronomy Club said he was looking forward to a spectacular event. “It’s absolutely safe (to watch). No special glasses needed, because the sun doesn’t play a role at all,” said Coronaios.
He said it doesn’t matter where you're standing, just as long as you can see the moon.
ASSA will be hosting a series of viewing events – in Cape Town at the V&A Waterfront, in Johannesburg at the old Observatory, and at Pearly Beach near Hermanus. All the viewing events are free of charge.Part-time student Chante Oagle, 26, said she did not know what to expect but was looking forward to see the eclipse in Johannesburg with her friends.
“I am really excited, think it will be amazing to experience this with other people; a story I’ll tell my future kids,” she eagerly said. “This is history in the making, really.”
Meanwhile, professional cyclist Louis Martin, 21, from the East Rand in Johannesburg expressed similar sentiments. “It would be very nice to have as many people as possible watching and talking about this event on social media.”
Martin said he has only ever heard about a lunar eclipse at high school, so this will be a special event. “It’s great that I’ll finally get to see it with my own eyes. It didn’t really make sense when I read about it geography.”
Journalist Susan Smuts has seen two eclipses but is equally excited about this one. Together with her young son and friends, she will be awaiting the eclipse with a picnic at the old Observatory in Johannesburg.“Initially, I wanted to host a small gathering at my home but then decided to join others. This is just enriching , it fills one with a sense of awe,” she said.
“And it does not take much – just remember to look up to the sky on Friday.”
• The next lunar eclipse is expected to take place on May 16 2022.