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Longest total lunar eclipse of the century to take place later this month

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The longest total lunar eclipse of this century is set to happen later this month.

Taking place for a whopping one hour and 43 minutes, the celestial extravaganza will be almost 40 minutes longer than the Super Blue Blood Moon eclipse that graced the skies back in January this year.

During this time the moon will turn a brilliant orange-red colour as it passes directly into the darkest region of Earth's shadow.

The rare phenomenon will only be visible in the eastern hemisphere, so people in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and New Zealand are in for a treat.

In addition to the total eclipse, stargazers will be treated to another out-of-this-world nighttime display as Mars will also be visible in the sky on the same night.

So when will Blood Moon eclipse happen, why does it change colour and why is it the longest of this century?

Scroll down to find out…

Total lunar eclipse (Cjames Fotografia / Flickr creative Commons)

When will the eclipse take place?

The astronomical event will light up the night sky on the night of July 27 into the early hours of July 28.

From start to finish, the entire eclipse – including the partial eclipse – will last three hours and 55 minutes.

It will reach totality at 9.21pm. The spectacle should be viewable from anywhere in Britain.

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Why does it change colour? 

Otherwise known as a Blood Moon, the total lunar eclipse lasts so long because the moon will pass directly into the darkest region of Earth's shadow. 

At this point the sun, Earth and moon all line up.  

This causes the Earth’s shadow to block the sun and leads to the moon taking on a deep red-orange glow from refracted sunlight, hence the name. 

Eclipse beginning (Jonathan Lidbeck / Flickr Creative Commons)

Why is it the longest eclipse of this century?

This month's total lunar eclipse is likely to be the longest event of its kind until 2123.

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It lasts so long due to the moon reaching it's furthest possible point from Earth, meaning it'll take a larger amount of time to pass through the Earth's shadow than normal. 

A partial eclipse will take immediately after as the moon passes out of Earth's shadow, which Brits should be able to gaze upon easily. 

When will Mars be visible in the sky?

Besides the lunar eclipse, Mars will also reach it's closet point to Earth on the same night (July 27).

During this time it will be fully illuminated by the Sun – making it brighter than any other time of the year.

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It will also be visible in the sky for the whole night as well as some of it's moons.

According to astronomers, the Mars opposition next month is set to be the second closest opposition in nearly 60,000 years – second to the opposition that took place in 2003.

To see this celestial display in all its glory, consider investing in a medium-sized telescope as this will make it even easier to see.

Mars (Kevin Gill / Flickr Creative Commons)

What can Brits expect next? 

Within only a matter of 24 hours following the lunar eclipse and Mars Opposition, Brits will be hit by another celestial extravaganza.

This year's Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower will reach its peak July 28-29.

The stellar display takes place annually and is considered to be one of the best meteor showers of the year with up to 20 or more shooting stars per hour at its peak.

Just like most other meteor showers, high-tech cameras and telescopes won't be needed to spot the meteors, though these will still enhance the view. 

Avid stargazers should consider using a sleeping bag or a reclining chair to admire the shower comfortably outside – just remember to wrap up warm and allow your eyes to adjust to the darkness for at least 20 minutes.

Locations that are as far away as possible from any interfering artificial lights are advised to be able to see the shooting stars clearly.

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