Are you ready? A supermoon, blue moon and total lunar eclipse all in 1 night

This super moon was shot setting over the Huachuca Mountains in Sierra Vista, Arizona. It was shot on the morning of the super-blood moon, Sept. 27, 2015 | Stock image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Cue the Elvis records and step outside early Wednesday morning for a “once in a blue moon” night sky lunar event. For the second time this month, the moon is about to become full, something that is rare in and of itself. However, skywatchers will be treated to an extra special sight Wednesday with a supermoon, blue moon and a total lunar eclipse all in one night.

The celestial event is a phenomenon nicknamed the “Super Blue Blood Moon.” The full moon will be larger and brighter and have a reddish hue.

This is the first time in more than 150 years that the three lunar events will coincide, NASA officials said in a statement, adding:

Sometimes the celestial rhythms sync up just right to wow us.

Although the best opportunity to see just the supermoon will be Tuesday evening, skywatchers in the western part of North America, Alaska and the Hawaiian Islands will have the best view of the rare “Super Blue Blood Moon” in the early morning hours Wednesday.

“Some people call the second full Moon in a month a Blue Moon, that makes it a super ‘Blue Moon,’” according to NASA. “Blue Moons happen every two and a half years, on average. With the total eclipse, it’ll be a royal spectacle indeed: a ‘super blue blood’ Moon.”

The blue moon will pass through the Earth’s shadow to give us a total lunar eclipse Wednesday morning. Totality – when the moon will be entirely inside the Earth’s dark umbral shadow – will last a little more than one hour and 15 minutes, according to earthsky.org.

Wednesday night’s supermoon will wrap up a very special “supermoon trilogy” as it is the last of three consecutive supermoons. New Years Day presented the first supermoon of the month and year with the first supermoon in the trilogy occurring Dec. 3, 2017.

Supermoon full moons will occur on Dec. 3, 2017, Jan. 1, 2018 and Jan. 31, 2018. The Jan. 31 supermoon will also be a blue moon and occur during a total lunar eclipse | Photo courtesy of NASA, St. George News

What is a supermoon?

A supermoon occurs when a full moon is at the closest point of its orbit to the Earth, called the perigee, according to the Space.com website, which states:

This makes the moon look extra-close and extra bright – up to 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than a full moon at its furthest point from Earth, called the apogee.

Because the moon’s orbit around Earth is somewhat elongated, the moon changes its distance to Earth by a few thousand miles over time, reaching a closest point – perigee – and a farthest point – apogee – in any given month.

The best time to enjoy a view of the supermoon will be as the full moon rises Tuesday night, just minutes after sunset at approximately 5:57 p.m., according to Space.com, when an optical effect called the “moon illusion” will make the supermoon appear much bigger and brighter than it will once it’s high in the sky.

“Any time you catch a full Moon as it rises or sets, while it’s suspended low on the horizon beaming through the silhouettes of trees or buildings, its apparent size might make you do a double-take,” NASA states on its website.

What is a blue moon?

Every month has a full moon, but about every 2.5 years, a second one sneaks in, and we end up with two full moons in the same calendar month. Hence, the second full moon in January will be termed a blue moon.

But will the moon really be blue? Probably not.

Believe it or not, scientists say blue-colored moons are real, according to NASA’s National Space Science Data Center. However, squeezing a second full moon into a calendar month doesn’t change its physical properties, so the date of a full moon, all by itself, doesn’t affect the moon’s color.

Typically, a truly “blue moon,” or one that takes on a bluish hue, requires a volcanic eruption, adding smoke or dust particles in the atmosphere.

In 2018, we will experience two traditional blue moons – one on Jan. 31 and the other on March 31.

What is a total lunar eclipse (Blood Moon)?

The term blood moon refers to a total lunar eclipse where a full moon lines up with the Earth and Sun. In this configuration the Earth blocks out the Sun’s light, turning the moon from a white glowing orb to a deep red orb.

According to timeanddate.com, this total lunar eclipse will be fully visible in Southern Utah if the weather permits. The eclipse will begin over St. George at 3:51 a.m. Wednesday with the maximum view occurring at 6:29 a.m. The eclipse will end at 7:42 a.m., having a duration of 3 hours and 51 minutes.

Skywatchers have to be on the night side of Earth while the lunar eclipse is taking place to witness the natural phenomenon. To find out the local time of the eclipse in your sky, click on this eclipse calculator and put in the name of a city near you.

For those who miss the Jan. 31 lunar eclipse, next year’s lunar eclipse – occuring Jan. 21, 2019 – will be visible throughout all of the U.S. and will be a supermoon, although it won’t be a blue moon.

If you capture a great shot of the “Super Blue Blood Moon” that you would like to share with St. George News for a possible photo gallery, send images and comments to: news@stgnews.com.

Email: kscott@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • John January 26, 2018 at 8:52 am

    As seen from the St. George area, totality begins at 5:51 a.m., and totality is the most interesting time to be watching. Unfortunately the moon is only 20 degrees high in the west, so if your western horizon is blocked by hills, you won’t see it. (For comparison, the width of your fist held at arm’s length is about 10 degrees.) The moon only gets lower after that. Totality ends at 7:08 a.m., but by then it has already set for almost everyone. The best strategy is to (a) find a location where the moon isn’t blocked by hills, and (b) watch the last phases of the partial eclipse from around 5ish and as much of totality as you can see from your location. Note also that the sun rises at 7:38 and the sky has been brightening long before then. It’s a shame that this local information couldn’t have been included in the article. That it’s a “supermoon” and “blue moon” is irrelevant to actually watching it.

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