What are you doing this January 31? Make sure your plans include watching the Super Blue Blood Moon, likely the big sky show of 2018.
Super Blue Blood Moon, of course. It’s quite a mouthful, but that’s what it takes to describe what is really three lunar events in one. It’s a Super Moon. It’s a Blue Moon. It’s a Blood Moon. Getting all three at the same time is something that happens once in a lifetime, at best. Here is what makes up the three types of Moons.
You might remember Blue Moon as a popular song that dates back to the 1930’s. Elvis Presley recorded it in the 50’s and there have been many others. It has a sad theme, but that’s not what makes the Moon blue. Blue Moon refers to the second Full Moon in the same month. No, it doesn’t look blue. It’s the normal orange near the horizon and brilliant searchlight white high in the sky.
A Super Moon or Supermoon is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a bigger than an average Moon and may look gigantic as it rises. How does the Moon grow and shrink? It’s not breathing, like a lung. It’s simply moving closer and farther away as it orbits the Earth. The Moon is often depicted as orbiting the Earth in a circle, but it’s really following an ellipse with the Earth closer to one side. The closest approach is called perigee. That’s when we get a Supermoon. The farthest away is called apogee. That Moon has a name, too. It’s called a Micromoon. The Supermoon can appear 30% brighter and 14% larger than a Micromoon.
No, the Moon is not bleeding or is there anything sinister implied. The term Blood Moon does refer to the deep red blood-like color that is more intense than the normal orange coloring you see when the Moon is near the horizon. A Blood Moon can be hanging high in the sky, which does make it a bit scary after all. The blood coloring is caused by the light of the Sun being blocked by the shadow of the Earth as it passes between the Sun and the Moon. This is called a lunar eclipse, which happens only on the night of a Full Moon, and only sometimes.
The Lunar Trifecta is January 31
The last day of January, 2018 will be the most significant in over a century. Unlike the recent total solar eclipse, it will be visible in most of the world, especially in Asia where sky gazers will be able to see the entire eclipse from start to finish. Those of us in North America will get a nice taste of the total phase when the Moon is huge, deep red and decidedly awe-inspiring… although early in the morning rather than late at night. Check here for a schedule map of when you’ll experience the Super Blue Blood Moon of 2018.