x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Heavens to open in lunar eclipse

The eclipse will occur from 10.22pm until 2.02am.

A minaret at Sheikh Zayed Mozque looms in the foreground during a partial lunar eclipse over Abu Dhabi in January, 2010. Astronomy fans say tonight’s lunar event - not expected again over the UAE until 2018 - should be worth waiting up for.   Lee Hoagland / The National
A minaret at Sheikh Zayed Mozque looms in the foreground during a partial lunar eclipse over Abu Dhabi in January, 2010. Astronomy fans say tonight’s lunar event - not expected again over the UAE until 2018 - should be worth waiting up for. Lee Hoagland / The National

DUBAI // Amateur astronomers will have a chance to glimpse stars that are not normally visible as tonight's eclipse blots out the moonlight.

The Dubai Astronomy Group is holding a workshop tonight at a school in Dubai to monitor the skies in what is likely to be the darkest night in 16 years.

The eclipse will occur from 10.22pm until 2.02am tomorrow.

"Just as light pollution from the city can stop you from seeing the stars, the light from the moon can have the same effect," said Hasan al Hariri, the head of the group.

"With the moon being darkened, this is a good chance for people to see some of the deep-sky objects not normally visible."

The group will set up three telescopes at Omar Bin Al Khattab Model School in Dubai - one for looking through, another connected to a projector and the third for photography.

The group's 2,500 members have been invited, along with children from nearby schools. Those unwilling to make the journey will be able to see the eclipse well enough from home.

Lunar eclipses occur when the moon is covered by the shadow of the Earth. Although they are relatively common, tonight is one of the rare times the moon will pass through the centre line of the Earth's shadow.

The last time such an event was visible in the UAE was on July 16, 2000; and the next will be on July 27, 2018.

As the sky darkens, Mr al Hariri will lead a group prayer, traditionally held during eclipses, to ask God to allow the movement of the Earth, sun and moon to continue.

"As long as humans have lived on Earth they have always looked at eclipses as very peculiar," he said. "In the past they have been linked with moments of catastrophe.

"If the moon stands still in the same position, it will definitely cause a catastrophe. The gravitational pull will affect the Earth's tectonics.

"People think eclipse is a sign from God, that's why Muslims pray. We are thanking God for allowing the moon to continue its movement so there won't be catastrophes."

mcroucher@thenational.ae