The sky is set for double phenomena in the month of July. Just four days after we get to witness 21st century’s longest total lunar eclipse on the 27th of July, be ready for another one on the 31st of July, as Mars will be closest to the Earth.
Century’s longest total lunar eclipse will occur on the 11.54 IST on 27th July. The eclipse will last as long as 1 hour 43 minutes. The event can be witnessed from all parts of India.
Director of Research & Academic, MP Birla Institute of Fundamental Research, Dr Debiprosad Duari said, hat four days after the lunar eclipse, another celestial magic will enthrall people around the globe. The fourth planet in our solar system, Mars or the ‘red planet’ will be the closest to the Earth at 57.6 million km.
The last time the red planet came close to Earth was back in 2003 when it was at 55.7 million km, which was the nearest in 60,000 years.
"The Red Planet will be at its brightest since 2003 when Mars made its closest approach to Earth in almost 60,000 years since September, 24, 57617 BC," Duari said.
In the event that the clouds don’t cover up the skies, the red planet will be visible in the night sky after the sunset till the sunrise, from all parts of the country.
Duari, while explaining the phenomenon said that the orbital period increases as the distance of a planet from the Sun increases. This is why Earth takes a little more than 365 days to go round the Sun and Mars takes 687 days.
"Due to the difference of the orbital speed and orbital period, in every 26 months or so, Earth passes between Mars and the Sun, bringing Mars and the Sun on exactly opposite sides of it. This is called Mars at the opposition," he added.
Mars will take its position on 27th July, just 51 days before it passes through its perihelion, which is the closest point relative to the Sun in its orbit.
"Since it will be quite close to Earth by that time, it will appear very bright and will be visible roughly after sunset and will remain in the sky till sunrise. The Red Planet will shine very prominently in our night sky ... it will be easier to see it clearly with telescopes or even with the naked eye," Duari said.
Further explaining that the phenomenon occurs only once or twice every 15 or 17 years.
"The next opposition of Mars, when it will look relatively brighter and bigger than the average, will be on October 6, 2020. But it will be a little further away, around 61.76 million kilometers from Earth and will be looking relatively smaller and less bright than on July 31, 2018," the astrophysicist said.
The phenomenon will next happen in the year 2035.
Duari said, “It will come closer to Earth than it was on 2003 only on 2287 (August 29) when possibly there will be nobody alive present on Earth to witness it."
Citing the rumors that did the doors back in 2003, Duari said, a hoax was spread that Mars would be as big as the Moon when it comes close to the Earth. And that the hoax has done its round every year in August since then.
He said, "But we must note that at its closest approach this year, Mars will be only 24.3 arc. Seconds across and nowhere close to the size of the Moon, which is 75 times bigger in diameter as it appears."
The Director informed that it was completely safe to watch the event through naked eyes. In order to witness the details of the phenomenon, one needs to use a telescope with at least a four-inch diameter. A moderate size telescope will be enough to view the South Polar Region and the ice caps on the red planet.
Duari also said, “Just after the sunset one should look close to the east-southeastern horizon to view this bright planet, appearing 1.8 times brighter than Jupiter." He also stated that astronomers have spotted a large dust storm which is expected to lower its intensity by 31st July.
Information Source: timesofindia
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