‘Blood moon’ leaves Kenyans open-mouthed
Momentous, dramatic and “bloody”.
Kenyans joined the rest of the world last night to observe the historic moment of the longest lunar eclipse of the 21st century.
During the eclipse, the moon turned into a deep-copper-toned object, in what is commonly (but not scientifically) known as “blood moon”.
The eclipse lasted an hour, 42 minutes and 57 seconds.
A partial eclipse was also observed in some areas when the moon entered and left the earth’s atmosphere, referred in astronomical terms as the earth’s umbral shadow.
The entire phenomenon lasted three hours and 54 minutes, according to the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
People in the Europe, the Middle East and the rest of Africa witnessed the celestial phenomenon between sunset and midnight, while those in Australia and eastern Asia saw the eclipse between midnight and dawn.
The eclipse, though, was not visible in America and the Pacific.
Kenyans witnessed the rare occurrence by simply looking in the sky, with the only limitation being cloud cover in some parts of the country.
The Travelling Telescope Africa Limited was in Magadi, Kajiado County.
“We wanted the community to be part of the historic occasion. Kenyans had the chance to see other planets like Mars, Jupiter and Saturn without the need of specialised equipment,” Ms Susan Murabana, the Travelling Telescope Africa MD, told the Saturday Nation.
According to Space.com, a lunar eclipse occurs when the moon moves into the earth’s shadow.
This takes place only at full moon. A total lunar eclipse happens only when the sun, earth and moon are in one perfect line.
Scientists say there are three types of lunar eclipses: total, partial and penumbral.
The most dramatic is the total lunar eclipse, in which the earth’s shadow covers the moon.
Eclipses have inspired awe and terror throughout history.
The total lunar eclipse, which turns the moon blood-red, has particularly been a source of dread and panic for people who did not comprehend the circumstances that led to this “strange” phenomenon.
Until science put the record straight, folk tales abounded about such occurrences, with some civilisations attributing them to conflicts between the gods.
Andrew Fabian, professor of astronomy at Cambridge University, explained that light from the sun goes through the earth’s atmosphere on its way to the moon.
“The earth’s atmosphere then turns the light red in the same way that the sun appears when it is going down,” Prof Fabian said.
When the moon moves into the conical shaped shadow of the earth, it stops being illuminated by sun, and gets dark.
Some of the light from the sun still reaches the moon after it is bent by the earth’s atmosphere, he added.
According to astronomers, the phenomenon also saw mars move close to earth, making it brighter and bigger than usual.
At this time, “red planet” appeared like an orange-red star.
The last lunar eclipse occurred on January 31, 2018.
NEXT LUNAR ECLIPSE
The total eclipse was visible from Asia, Australia, the Pacific Ocean and western North America.
Total lunar eclipses are a rare occurrence.
Scientists describe a total lunar eclipse as a “freak of cosmic happenstance”.
According to NASA, the next lunar eclipse that is this long will occur in 2123. Children born today will be 105 years old at that time.
And if Kenya’s life expectancy of 66.7 — according to the 2017 World Health Organisation report — is anything to go by, no living Kenyan will be alive to witness the phenomenon.
However, babies born today have a chance to watch the shortest total lunar eclipse of the century on September 8, 2090.
This will last about half an hour. But they must clock 72 years to observe the eclipse.