Some 500 skygazers witnessed the longest “blood moon” eclipse of this century that coincided with Mars’ closest approach in 15 years at the Prachin Buri Observatory on Friday night and early Saturday.
The 500 skygazers, most from Bangkok as the observatory is the one closest to the capital, joined people around the world in catching a glimpse of this rare phenomenon.
By 3.20am on Saturday, the Chalermphrakiart Observatory was still crowded with long queues of people waiting to use 10 large telescopes, including the ones with 72cm diameter, to watch the complete eclipse – known as “totality” – along with “blood Mars”.
According to Worawit Tanwutthibanthit, an adviser to the observatory, the totality that was observed in Prachin Buri lasted one hour and 43 minutes. He said the complete eclipse happened at 2.30am and the upper part of the moon started lighting up at 4.13am.
He said there were three celestial phenomena to observe on Friday night and early Saturday.
Apart from the blood moon, Worawit said, Mars was also visible, a reddish bright orange and larger than normal throughout the night, as it was about 57.8 million kilometres from Earth.
Moreover, before the totality occurred, the full moon was the closest to Earth this year at 406,086km.
And when the blood moon appeared, “blood Mars” was also visible beside it, he added.
The activities at the Prachin Buri Observatory started at 6.30pm on Friday until 4.30am.
At 1.24am on Saturday, a partial eclipse began and by 2.15am the moon was half in shadow while the entire eclipse happened at 2.30am.
Worawit added that Mars would continue to move close to Earth until July 31 when it will be the closest to Earth in 15 years since 2003, at a distance of 57.6 million km compared to the average distance of 225 million km.
The National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand Public Organisation (NARIT) said it organised activities for observing the rare phenomena at four locations – Chiang Mai, Nakhon Ratchasima, Chachoengsao and Songkhla provinces.
The NARIT said activities started at 6pm in Songkhla on the Mermaid Ground of the Samila Beach. A clear sky ensured people will not be disappointed.
The NARIT said the phenomena could also be seen in other southern provinces, including Krabi, Phuket, Surat Thani and Yala.
It said a lot of people gathered at the Sirindhorn Astro Park in Chiang Mai but cloudy skies and occasional rains made it difficult to observe the phenomena.