A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth eclipses the Sun from the Moon’s point of view. As a result, the Moon is seen to darken as it enters the Earth’s shadow during its orbit around our planet. When the Sun-Earth-Moon alignment is precise, viewers on the night side of our planet will see the Moon darken as it enters the Earth’s penumbra and umbra, until the entire Moon is completely in shadow. This will result in the Moon obtaining a characteristic reddish hue, which is why total lunar eclipses are sometimes also referred to informally as blood moons.
Since lunar eclipses only occur when the Moon is directly in line with the Sun and Earth during its full phase, they are understandably not very common. The last total lunar eclipse visible from Malta occurred on 28th September 2015. This year, the eclipse will occur on Friday 27th July, with the partial eclipse phase starting at 20:24hrs local time and the total phase starting at 21:30hrs local time.
In a collaboration between the Institute of Space Sciences and Astronomy, the Department of Physics and the Astronomical Society of Malta, as well as Esplora and Heritage Malta, the aim of this event is to, firstly, observe the total lunar eclipse with the naked eye from Fort St Elmo. In addition, a number of telescopes will be set up on site, through which those attending can also peek at the eclipsed moon. The planet Mars will also be easily visible in the night sky on the day, as the red planet will be close to opposition – the closest point to Earth in its orbit around the Sun. Attendees will also be able to see Mars through telescopes on site. A number of astronomy-related activities intended for children carried out on site will also be taking place.
This event is endorsed by the Valletta 2018 Foundation.