This January 31, an unusual and fantastic event will take place. With the moon at its fullest stage and being the time of the year that its distance to Earth is the closest, a “supermoon” is expected. And that’s half of the matter.
Due to a lunar eclipse, the moon will darken, becoming red thanks to the Rayleigh scattering process, followed by a blue moon. To be able to perceive this experience, its necessary to be on the side of the Earth where nighttime has arrived.
Nevertheless, the side of the Earth where the Sun is still shining will be able to watch the whole event live on Space.com, thanks to NASA TV.
The Super Blue Blood Moon
It is not rare to see a lunar eclipse and a full supersized moon, but the combination of both is, adding an actual unique event like a blue moon, makes it even more exceptional. Professional skywatchers are nothing but excited to experience this event during the early hours of next Wednesday.
The Supermoon is a full moon that coincides with the closest distance in the elliptic lunar orbit that the Moon reaches to Earth, which makes the lunar disk appear larger. A Supermoon seems only 14% larger in diameter than the usual full moon, and the surface illuminance rises to a 30% brighter.
There’s a possibility of a supermoon happening up to four times a year. The last supermoon occurred on January 2, this year. The coincidence between a Supermoon and a total lunar eclipse occurs occasionally; the last one occurred in September 2015.
The Blood Moon appears during a lunar eclipse. It occurs when the moon passes right behind Earth making its way through the umbra, meaning the shadow formed when the Earth blocks the Sun during the process. So the three of them, Moon, Earth, and Sun, need to be perfectly aligned for the lunar eclipse to happen.
The term Blood Moon comes from the reddish color the disk acquires due to the sunlight that passes through the Earth’s atmosphere. The light is filtered, refracting itself in a way that the lights that are green to violet on the spectrum scatter stronger than the red light, allowing this last light to get to the moon on a bigger scale.
The Blue Moon is scientifically a full moon that appears more often than everybody thinks since it is defined by the science community as “the third of four full moons in a season or a second full moon in a month.” But the term related to the color of the lunar disk itself is a rare condition, caused by certain atmospheric conditions, including smoke or dust particles that invade it.
After the eruption in Krakatoa (now Indonesia) in 1883, the deadly volcanic five-day event left additional side effects, one of them a Blue Moon that lasted about two years due to the massive ashes that went into the atmosphere. As these particles were bigger than average, they were the perfect size for scattering the red light, allowing other colors from the spectrum to pass.
The process of the 2018 event
Viewers in California, Hawaii, Western Canada, Australia, Eastern Asia and Alaska will be able to watch the whole eclipse process, from the passing of the Moon through the umbra of the Earth, to the development of the so expected Blue Moon, according to Space.com.
NASA explains that the Super Blue Blood Moon will start with the Penumbral Eclipse at 2:51 am (PST), then proceed to the beginning of an Umbral Eclipse at 3:48 am. The actual Umbra stages where the red color shows will begin at 4:51 am, having its zenith at 5:29 am, and then, the Moon will finish its way through the Umbra area at 6:07 am.
At 7:11 am the Umbral Eclipse will end, and the Penumbral one at 8:08 am.
Slooh.com will narrate a webcast that will start at 7 am EST (1200 GMT), on its page also available in Space.com. In this, they’ll make a journey through ancient knowledge related to this event. The Griffith Observatory TV in Los Angeles will also transmit on a live broadcast the event, just as the Virtual Telescope Project, which will have Gianluca Masi, an astrophysicist, and director of the project, as a host.
A big study-deserving matter
Since many changes occur during this process on the surface of the lunar disk, many researchers like Rick Elphic, a NASA planetary scientist, will observe and analyze the geological variations, from the ground and with machinery, from the sky. These shifts include peculiarities like fluctuations in temperature, which help to explain the soil on the Moon.
Kelly Beatty, an editor at Sky and Telescope Magazine, claims the event:
“It’s an astronomical trifecta.”
Just as some other scientists state, it is a true wonder to watch the unusual cycles lining up so perfectly together. The last time the trifecta happened, was on May 31, 1884, according to Professor Jason Aufdenberg, at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach.