What Is The Super Blue Blood Moon?
We’ve all seen a full moon before, and on some nights when the sky is particularly clear, we experience its full glow. On New Year’s Day, the world was treated to a bright and beautiful super moon, when the moon was closer to the Earth making it appear so big you could reach out and touch it.
Well, on January 31st, we’ll be able to experience an event rarer than a super moon. We will be experiencing what scientists are calling a super blue blood moon. The last time in history that this event was recorded was on March 31st, 1866, 150 years ago!
Super Blue Blood Moon
So what is a super blue blood moon? Well for starters, it isn’t as ominous as it sounds. The name actually deals with when the moon is full and the fact that it is happening at the same time of a lunar eclipse. Let’s explain further.
What’s a Blue Moon?
This January, we are lucky to be witness to two full moons in a calendar month, something that only happens once every two and a half years. The first was on New Year’s Day, and the second on the 31st. This event is called a ‘blue moon’; in fact, this event is where the saying ‘once in a blue moon’ came from.
What’s a Super Moon?
Now a super moon occurs when a full moon coincides with the closest distance that the Moon reaches to Earth in its elliptic orbit . Usually when we see the moon, it’s an average distance of 238,855 miles away. But on the night of the 31st, the moon will be 223,068 miles. Still very far away, but 15,000 miles will sure make a difference when it comes to how big it will look.
What’s a Blood Moon?
Now what is a blood moon you ask? While not a scientific term, a blood moon refers to a total lunar eclipse . A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon travels through the Earth’s umbra (the dark central portion of its shadow) and the Earth blocks all direct sunlight from falling onto the Moon’s surface. However, the Moon does not turn completely dark during a total eclipse as part of the sunlight still reaches the lunar surface indirectly, via the Earth’s atmosphere. Some of the Sun’s rays get filtered out, leaving a reddish reflection on the surface of the moon.
Where Can You See The Super Blue Blood Moon
Unfortunately, some people won’t be able to witness this once in a lifetime lunar event while it’s happening. Lunar eclipses are only visible on Earth’s night side, and unfortunately the people who are on the day side will miss out.
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For the United States, the best place to see the whole eclipse would be in Hawaii or Alaska. Unfortunately for the rest of the continental US, the event occurs too closely either to moonrise or moonset to fully witness the super blue blood moon.
For example, New York City will see the moon enter Earth’s penumbra (the lighter, outer part of its shadow) at 5:51 a.m. on January 31st. The moon will touch the umbra, the part of the shadow that gives the eclipse the look of a red moon, at 6:48 a.m. local time. But the moon sets only 16 minutes later, so New Yorkers will get to see only the first part of the eclipse .
For the best view, you would have to be near a flat western horizon.
As you move west along the country, people can see a little bit more of the event happening before sunrise. Here is the full set of times for major U.S. cities to see the blood moon.
This map shows just how much of the blood moon the world will see that night.
We encourage you to try and stay up for the super blue blood moon, because events like this really are once in a lifetime.
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