Gazing at firework displays bursting in the night sky on the 4th of July can happen just any old year, but July 2018 is going to be a special one-of-a-kind month to watch the sky at night, especially toward the month’s end. That’s because two red celestial bodies will entertain us with jaw-dropping displays of their own during that time. One will be in the form of an especially long lunar eclipse, and the other will give us the closest view we’ve had of Mars since 2003, according to Space.
First, let’s discuss Earth’s encounter with Mars. What we mean by that is Mars is just about to venture to the part of its orbit that’s known as the opposition. Mars and the Earth travel around the sun at different distances. Earth, on the other hand, is closer to the sun, so it orbits faster than the Red Planet does. The Earth can actually make two trips around the sun in approximately the same amount of time it takes Mars to make one trip.
In this scenario, NASA explains that the planets find themselves very far apart and on opposite sides of the sun at times. At other times, our planet catches up with Mars and places us fairly close to it. In the case of opposition, the sun and Mars are on directly opposite sides of our planet, forming a straight line between the three heavenly bodies.
You shouldn’t have to wait long to see the opposition because Mars is heading toward close proximity to the Earth at a rate of about 210,000 miles per day. The planet’s close proximity will have it doubling its brightness as it makes its trek toward us in July.
Mars will be at a distance of 35.8 million miles from the Earth between July 27 to July 31. During those dates, it will be at its brightest in the sky and will even be visible to the naked eye. That is also the brightest and biggest Mars will appear to us for another 17 years.
Back in 2003, the opposition saw the Earth and Mars the closest they had been to each other in nearly 60,000 years. During that opposition, the two planets came within 34.6 million miles of each other.
Not to be outdone is the super-long total eclipse that’s happening at the same time as the opposition, and the Inquisitr recently did a feature that gives you all the details about the once-in-a-lifetime event that’ll make you not want to miss it. The total lunar eclipse will display a “blood moon” phenomena in all its glory, and you can read about the whys, where and when of what that is in this article from the Inquisitr.
The blood moon is also supposed to herald the end of times (boo!), according to some doomsday prophets. Blood moons have been seen in some cultures as “harbingers of divine change,” and BigThink even points out some familiar scripture in the Bible that links the unique events to Tribulation. Here are verses from Joel 2:31 and Revelation 6:12 that represent a time when people didn’t completely understand eclipses and red-hued moons.
“The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come.”
“And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood.”
So, think of all that as a great history lesson and don’t read too much into it. Focus instead on some astounding views in July’s night skies that will peak toward the end of the month.