Get ready for the rare and spectacular coming our way! If you live in the western part of North America, Alaska, and the Hawaiian islands, set your alarm. Set it for the early morning hours of Wednesday, January 31 to view a Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse. The upcoming Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse is causing a lot of excitement among skywatchers. Why? Because it combines three unusual lunar events – a supermoon, a blue moon, and a total lunar eclipse. It will be visible before sunrise on January 31, 2018, and you don’t want to miss it. It’s not every month that you get to view all three in one evening.
What is a Supermoon?
A supermoon is a new or full moon that appears unusually large and bright. Supermoons appear 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than other full moons. A supermoon happens when the moon’s perigee coincides with a full moon. (The moon’s closest approach to the earth in a single orbit is called the perigee. The point at which the moon is furthest away from the earth during its orbit of Earth is called the apogee).
Supermoons do not occur every month because the moon’s orbit changes orientation as the earth orbits the sun. They occur about four to six times a year on average.
What is a Blue Moon?
A Blue Moon occurs when two full moons happen in one calendar month. The second full moon is called a Blue Moon. The phrase “Once in a Blue Moon” is used to refer to things rare, seldom, or perhaps absurd. Blue moons happen rarely, every two years and seven months.
The first supermoon of January 2018 occurred on the evening of New Year’s Day (or the morning of January 2 for others). January will host its second supermoon early, before sunrise, on January 31. But not every place on Earth will see it on that day.
What is a Lunar Eclipse?
A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes into the earth’s shadow. These occur at least twice a year. Unlike solar eclipses, lunar eclipses are visible from anywhere it is nighttime.
Lunar eclipses during a supermoon happen regularly. The last one was in September 2015.
NASA said: “If you live in North America, Alaska or Hawaii, the eclipse will be visible before sunrise on January 31 and for those in the Middle East, Asia, eastern Russia, Australia and New Zealand the ‘super blue blood moon’ can be seen during moonrise in the morning on January 31.”
Gordon Johnston, program executive and lunar blogger at NASA Headquarters in Washington said: “Weather permitting, the West Coast, Alaska and Hawaii will have a spectacular view of totality from start to finish.
“Unfortunately, eclipse viewing will be more challenging in the Eastern time zone. The eclipse begins at 5.51am ET (10.51am GMT), as the Moon is about to set in the western sky, and the sky is getting lighter in the east.”
The Virtual Telescope Project will stream the eclipse online from 6.30am ET (11.30am GMT) on January 31 and from 11am ET (4pm GMT).
The next supermoon lunar eclipse visible throughout all of the United States will be January 21, 2019 — though that one will not be a Blue Moon.
Fun Facts: Did you know that an eclipse never comes alone? A solar eclipse always occurs about two weeks before or after a lunar eclipse. And unlike a solar eclipse, this lunar eclipse can be safely viewed without protective eyewear.
What is a Blood Moon?
During the lunar eclipse on January 31, the supermoon will take on a red glow or reddish tint making it a Blood Moon.
“That red light you see is sunlight that has skimmed and bent through Earth’s atmosphere and continued on through space to the moon,” said Alan MacRobert of Sky and Telescope magazine.
What Makes the January Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse so Special?
“We’ve had a lot of supermoons and we’ve had lunar eclipses, but it’s rare that it also happens to be a blue moon,” said Jason Aufdenberg, associate professor of physics and astronomy at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s campus in Daytona Beach, Florida.
He also said that according to his calculations, the last time a supermoon, blue moon, and total lunar eclipse were visible all at the same time from the eastern United States on May 31, 1844.
According to Sky and Telescope, the last blue moon total lunar eclipse visible from North America happened on March 31, 1866.
“All three of these cycles lining up is what makes this unusual,” Jason added.
NASA said: “The January 31 full moon is special for three reasons: it’s the third in a series of ‘supermoons’, when the Moon is closer to Earth in its orbit – known as perigee – and about 14 percent brighter than usual.”
Will You Watch the Sky for This Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse?
A lunar spectacle, a rare treat, an astronomical trifecta – Will you view this cosmic event not seen in 36 years? Try these new interactive eclipse maps. Zoom in and search for accurate eclipse times and visualizations for your location. Or visit The Best Places to See the Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse to view a timetable of events.
For help taking your own amazing photographs of this rare Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse, visit How to Photograph the Supermoon: NASA Pro Shares His Tips. Then share them with us here in the comments, if you like. We’d love to see them from your part of the world!
Open on a limited basis October thru April