The longest total eclipse in a century will take place on 27 July 2018 and is visible in Cape Town and Johannesburg. The eclipse creates a ‘blood moon’ that will light the night-time sky in a red hue.

A rare astrological event that will last for a total of 2hours and 15 minutes – Venus, Saturn and Jupiter will also be visible during this event. The South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) is hopeful that (weather permitting) we will be able to clearly view the eclipse.

SAAO Spokesperson and specialist, Daniel Cunnama shared, “This is at the first eclipse since 2011 that is visible in South Africa and the next one may only occur in Africa in 2025.”

He went on to state, “It is an exciting event because it is the longest total eclipse in the 21st century.”

What is a total lunar eclipse?

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon enters the earth’s shadow and according to NASA, patches of sunlight reaches the moon but it first travels through earth’s atmosphere.

The atmosphere filters out most of the sun’s blue light causing the moon to look red and create the ‘blood moon’ appearance.

Instead the moon going completely dark sunlight travels through earth’s atmosphere and bends to reflect a red or red-brown tinge on the moon.

Picture: NASA

Unlike other eclipses the total lunar eclipse is safe enough to view with the naked eye, telescopes or binoculars.

Where to watch the total lunar eclipse

There are three places along the Western Cape that will host viewing points for this rare astrological event.

1. V&A Waterfont – Cape Town

Members of the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa (ASSA) and SAAO will be providing a guided tour with telescopes to view the eclipse at the flag pole terrace. The event will begin at 6pm with a tour of the solar system with use of instruments. The eclipse will begin 7:15pm and reach totality at 9:30pm.

 

2. Dirtopia Trail Centre and Cafe – Stellenbosch 

The viewing will take place in Delvera farm on the R44 near Dirtopia cafe. Founder member of Orion Observation Astronomy Group (OOG) Willie Koorts will provide an explanation on the phenomenon and members of the organization will be bringing their telescopes.

If there is bad weather there will be a live screened stream of the event. The event will begin at 7:45pm and cost R100 per person which included a soup and bread buffet table.

 

3. NG Kerk Onrusrivier – Hermanus 

Telescopes will be set up in the parking area by the NG Kerk Onrusrivier and will start at 8pm.

 

The types of lunar eclipses

There are three types of lunar eclipses, the penumbral lunar eclipse, the partial lunar eclipse and a total lunar eclipse. Lunar eclipses can only occur when there is a full moon and occurs when the sun, moon and earth are in succinct alignment.

Most of the lunar eclipses that take place are penumbral and are hard to detect with the naked eye or telescope.

Although we have a full moon each month there needs to be a perfect alignment between the sun, moon and earth to create an eclipse.

A lunar eclipse is different from a solar eclipse which is an eclipse of the sun.

 

Picture: Unsplash

 

Article written by

Ishani Chetty

Ishani is a vegetarian who is passionate about social issues, the environment and current affairs.