See Pics: Blood moon dazzles skygazers in 21st centurys longest eclipse

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A total lunar eclipse happens only when the sun, earth and moon are in one flawless line.

"This is actually nearly as long as a lunar eclipse could be", Prof Tim O'Brien, an astrophysicist at University of Manchester, explained.

The totality of this lunar eclipse will last about an hour and 43 minutes, but a partial eclipse before and after the total phase means the moon will spend almost four hours crossing the Earth's shadow.

Skywatchers will be treated to the longest "blood moon" eclipse of the 21st Century on Friday.

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The biblical basis for blood moon prophecies is often traced to, a Bible verse that predicts, "The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes".

Unlike a solar eclipse, which can be viewed only from a certain relatively small area of the world, a lunar eclipse may be viewed from anywhere on the night side of Earth.

Our constant companion will also be at the farthest point on its orbit from Earth, making its movement across the sky slower from our perspective, thus spending longer in the dark.

"All eclipses are spectacular", the Royal Astronomical Society's Robert Massey said. The sky show will not be visible from North America, but there's still a way to catch all the action surrounding the "blood moon" online.

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The moon travels to a similar position every month, but the tilt of its orbit means it normally passes above or below the Earth's shadow - so most months we have a full moon without an eclipse.

Skygazers hoping to see the rare "blood moon" in the United Kingdom last night were left disappointed as clouds largely obscured the celestial phenomenon.

People gather to watch a "blood moon" eclipse in Melbourne on July 28, 2018. "Kenyans had the chance to see other planets like Mars, Jupiter and Saturn without the need of specialised equipment", Ms Susan Murabana, the Travelling Telescope Africa MD, told the Saturday Nation. "Besides, we would not have clear skies at that time", he added.

It will appear like a bright star, before fading from sight a few minutes later. "At most perihelic oppositions, including this one, the planet retreats to the belly of the ecliptic low in the southern sky".

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Mars will actually be at its closest approach since 2003 on Monday and Tuesday, when it is 35.78 million miles away. Mars is also safe to view with the naked eye.