Al Ain: Sky-watchers in the UAE and the Middle East will be able to witness nature's grand spectacle on the night of June 15 when the moon will present one of the longest total lunar eclipses of the century.
The lunar eclipse will be visible almost everywhere in the world except North America, said astronomers who are describing this time of the year as an eclipse season. The eclipse will start at 10:22pm when the Earth's dark shadow will start eclipsing the full moon disc and finish at 02:02am after three hours and 40 minutes.
Astronomical calculations also confirm that it would be one of the two longest total lunar eclipses of the century.
A total of 85 total lunar eclipses, according to the scientists, will be taking place this century of which the longest total lunar eclipse will occur on July 27, 2018.
The June 15 eclipse will be just three minutes shorter to it.
With the day and night difference, people in the world would see the eclipse at different times. In Europe and Africa, the eclipse will be seen sometime between sunset and midnight on June 15 just before the people in the Middle East. People in Asia, Australia, and New Zealand will see it after midnight and sunrise on June 16.
Astronomers said this will be the third eclipse of the year 2011. A partial solar eclipse has occurred just yesterday that was visible only over the Arctic during the new moon.
There will be another partial solar eclipse on July 1, followed by yet another partial solar eclipse on November 25.
People will also be able to see the second total lunar eclipse of the year again on December 10.
Atif Hassan, an amateur astronomer in Al Ain, said lunar and solar eclipses have different meanings for people of different civilisations and religions right from the Babylonians times to the present day. "People feared eclipses for thousands of years," he said, noting that there is, however, no need to attach any superstitions with this natural phenomenon.
People in some cultures believe that lunar and solar eclipses are the punishments given to the planets for the sins committed by humans.
The ancient astrologers also believed that an eclipse has irrefutable consequences if it touches a key planet in a person's birth chart.
"I don't believe in all this, taking it as a natural phenomenon in the universe," he said.
"Such events, no doubt, terrify people. In Islam, though no superstition is associated with the eclipse, prayers can be performed at the time of the eclipse, storms, and any other natural phenomenon," he said.
Partial eclipse begins: 18:23 GMT (10.23pm Dubai time)
Total eclipse begins: 19:23 GMT (11.23pm)
Greatest eclipse: 20:13 GMT (00.13am)
Total eclipse ends: 21:03 GMT (01:03am)
Partial eclipse ends: 22:02 GMT (02:02am)