Partial solar eclipse on Saturday to add to July's list of celestial events

Only stargazers on the very southern coasts of Australia and New Zealand might catch the eclipse.

As if a blood moon and the century's longest total lunar eclipse weren't enough, this July will also feature one of only three partial eclipses of 2018. The solar eclipse on Saturday, 14 July, will be the second of the year, with the first observed on 15 February and the third scheduled for 11 August.

But before we get the stargazers excited, it is important to note that only a few will have the luxury to observe the solar eclipse on Saturday, as it will take place almost entirely over open waters in Antarctica and southern Australia.

Space reported that since the eclipse will be observed during the Southern Hemisphere's winter, most of Antarctica will be experiencing "polar nights," during which the sun does not rise for weeks or months at a time. But the partial solar eclipse will briefly pass over the illuminated edge of the continent that lies just south of Australia.

So stargazers on the very southern coasts of Australia and New Zealand might catch brief views of the eclipse.

This partial eclipse will begin at 7.18 am IST on 14 July, reaching its maximum magnitude at 8.31 am IST, the report added. The eclipse magnitude is defined by the fraction of sun's diameter that is covered by the moon. In a partial eclipses, the center of the moon's shadow "misses" the Earth — this is why there's no region of totality.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Weeks later, the world will witness the longest total lunar eclipse of the 21st century. The eclipse, which will last one hour and 43 minutes, will also feature a "blood moon" — which is a non-scientific term used to refer to the red tinge on a fully eclipsed Moon.

The event on an intervening night between 27 and 28 July will also outlast the Super Blue Blood Moon that occurred in January by nearly three-quarters of an hour. And unlike Saturday's solar eclipse, the lunar eclipse will be visible in its entirety from all parts of the country.

The partial eclipse of the moon will start around 11.54 pm IST, with the total eclipse beginning at 1 am on 28 July. "The greatest eclipse, when the Moon will look the darkest, will be at around 1.52 am and the totality will continue at 2.43 am after this period the moon will remain partially eclipsed till 3.49 am of 2 July," an official said.

In what seems like a bizarre coincidence, Mars will also observe the closest distance from Earth in 15 years during the July lunar eclipse. On 27 July, Mars will be in opposition to the Sun, meaning it will be opposite the Sun in Earth's sky, just 51 days before it passes through perihelion, which is its closest point relative to the Sun in its orbit. As a result, as Space points out, the minimum distance between Mars and Earth will shrink to about 57.58 million kilometres on 30 July.

On that day, Mars will easily be visible to the unaided eye under a clear sky. The last time the Red Planet was so close to the Earth was in 2003.

Now with the onset of monsoon across India, one can only hope the skies will be clear between 27 and 30 July so that we can observe the rare cosmic circus.

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