On August 21, 2017, people across the United States were treated to first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in 99 years. It was a stunning display of the sun and moon and a great reminder of our place in the universe.
Well, 2018 has its own cosmic spectacle to get American and Canadian stargazers excited about and it’s happening soon.
On January 31, 2018, people living on the western half of North America will bare witness to the first Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse to hit North America in 150 years.
So what exactly is a Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse? It’s a unique cosmic event where 3 distinct lunar events occur at the same time: the supermoon, blue moon, and a lunar eclipse.
Supermoon: The moon on the January 31 will be a ‘supermoon,’ meaning that it will be closest to the Earth during its elliptical orbit. Supermoons can be up t0 14% bigger and 30% brighter than a typical moon.
Blue Moon: The moon will also be a blue moon, which means that it will be the second full moon of the calendar month not that its color will change to blue.
Lunar Eclipse: And last but not least, the Earth on January 31 will totally eclipse the moon. This will give the moon a reddish glow. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘blood moon.’
It’s these three cosmological events all occurring at the same time that will create the Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse.
The explanation why the moon turns ‘blood’ red during a lunar eclipse instead of going dark is actually really interesting.
You’d think that because the Earth is in between the Sun and the Moon that the moon would appear black in the sky, covered by Earth’s shadow.
However, the Earth’s atmosphere extends out beyond its rocky body. Light from the sun travels through this atmosphere and hits the moon.
The light that makes it beyond the atmosphere is essentially filtered out. The more blue colored light from the sun travels in shorter waves and is more easily trapped by our atmosphere, leaving the red colored light from the sun, which travels in longer wavelengths, free to pass through and land on the moon. That’s a gross oversimplification of the event but you should get the idea.
So don’t worry, the blood moon is mythological omen of doom or a sign of the apocalypse. It’s a very common and easily explainable cosmological event.
Isn’t science, fun?
Oh, and one nice difference from the Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse versus the Total Eclipse that occurred in August: you won’t need a pair of special sunglasses to see the event. You can look at the blood moon with your naked eyes. Unless of course you need a pair of glasses to see.