For several hours on Friday evening, almost the whole of Germany will have their eyes glued to the sky, as a red moon rises over the south-eastern horizon.
A lunar eclipse is known as a Mondfinsternis in German, though that is often shortened to the less sinister sounding Mofi. While Mofis happen every few years, this one is going to be something special.
First of all, it will be the longest total lunar eclipse of the 21st century. You would have to wait until 9th June 2123 to see one which is even a few minutes longer, so this is quite genuinely a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Red moon rising
Secondly, by what astronomers say is pure coincidence, this is also happening at a moment when the orbits of Earth and Mars are as close to each other as they ever get. That means that, alongside a red moon, you will also be able to see the red planet more clearly than ever.
The moon glows red during a total lunar eclipse due to longer wavelength red light being deflected by the Earth’s atmosphere. Though the moon is completely shadowed from the sun by the Earth for the duration of the eclipse, the red light is deflected onto the moon, giving it a brick-red hue. The phenomenon is sometimes known as the “blood moon”.
When to watch
In Germany, the moon will begin to rise at 8:58 pm, and is expected to be completely in the Earth’s shadow around half an hour later, when it will start to glow red.
For the best views, though, you will have to wait until 10:21 pm, when the sun will have fully set and the sky is as dark as possible. From then, there will be about an hour of Mofi magic before the moon begins to move out of the Earth’s shadow at 11:13pm.
Even after that, there will still be another hour of partial eclipse, but the key window will be that hour between 10:21pm and 11:13pm.
Where to watch
For the best views, it is worth getting as high as you can, and finding somewhere with a good view towards the south-east.
If you can get out of the city and away from artificial light, all the better. Clear skies will also be important. Though there is a little cloud cover forecast in the east of the country, most of Germany can look forward to an uninterrupted view of the rising red moon.