Many earthlings will be able to see the Moon briefly turn red on Sunday. The event will mark the first total lunar eclipse this year.
The rare visual is caused by the Moon passing through Earth’s shadow, blocking much of the Sun’s light from reaching our nearest neighbor.
“The wonderful thing is that when the Moon is entirely in shadow…the Moon will appear to your eyes as some sort of pink or orange color,” said Michelle Thaller, a NASA scientist.
“The only light rising on the Moon at this point is the light streaming through the Earth’s atmosphere.”
However, not everyone will have the same view of the event. Those in South America and parts of North America will be able to see a full eclipse.
While others from regions as far apart as New Zealand and Eastern Europe may see a partial eclipse.
The event comes as scientists prepare to return to the surface of the Moon, as it still has much to teach us.
“What I find most important about the Moon is that its surface has been largely unchanged for billions of years since practically the beginning of the solar system. And on Earth, of course, we have no not that opportunity,” Thaller said.
NASA plans to land a crew on the surface of the Moon by 2024. And next year it will attempt to land a lunar rover called VIPER.
The rover will search for resources at the Moon’s south pole, such as possible ice, so that the agency can one day establish a base camp on our celestial neighbor.
This is a crucial step in order to one day be able to explore Mars. “When people go to Mars, they’ll have to be completely independent. They’ll have to be able to fix their spacecraft, deal with any kind of medical emergency. Even communications will be more complicated with people on Mars,” Thaller added.
“The moon is this planetary body that we can stand on and test things out, and really expose our technology to this rugged space environment.
“And so, to me, that seems like an obvious testing ground to go further into the solar system.”