Science

The Super Blue Blood Moon Of 2018: What’s So Special About This Lunar Eclipse?

Super Blue Blood Moon Of 2018
Image source: YouTube Video Screenshot

The Hype of Super Blue Blood Moon Of 2018

An astronomical event we haven’t seen for the past 150 years will happen on January 31: The Super Blue Blood Moon of 2018. While it’s sure to be a breathtaking view, does it serve any other purpose for the advancement of science?

While there’s a lot of excitement around the Super Blue Blood Moon of 2018 due to the fact that it’s an event we haven’t seen in quite some time, the truth is that the hype surrounding the event is a little over exaggerated.

Supermoon

The “super” part of the Super Blue Blood Moon isn’t honestly that special. The moon follows an elliptical orbit that ranges from around 360000km to 406000km away from Earth. When the moon is at its closest point, it will obviously appear the largest. When the moon is only 360000km away, it appears around 13 percent larger than it would at its further point. While it is a noticeable difference, a 13 percent change isn’t necessarily as spectacular as the name Super Blue Blood Moon would suggest.

What makes the Super Blue Blood Moon of 2018 is special is this supermoon’s coincidence with a lunar eclipse and a blue moon. The lunar eclipse is referred to as a “blood moon” due to the fact that the moon takes on a reddish hue during a lunar eclipse as the moon passes into the Earth’s shadow. The “blue” part of the moniker refers to the fact that the Super Blue Blood Moon of 2018 will be the second full moon in January, rather than a description of the color.

While the occurrence of the Super Blue Blood Moon of 2018 is rare because of the combination of these three events, each one on its own isn’t that rare at all. What we’ll see (provided you’re in an area that can actually get a good look at it) is a larger and brighter moon in the midst of a lunar eclipse. The fact that it’s the second full moon in a month doesn’t have any effects on the viewing experience, rather serving to make the event ever rarer.

While there is a lot of buildup and anticipation surrounding the Super Blue Blood Moon of 2018, it’s important to keep expectations in check. While it will no doubt be great to look at, it won’t be a significant departure from what we’ve seen before.

Research Opportunities

There are, however, some research opportunities with the advent of the Super Blue Blood Moon of 2018. Lunar eclipses can actually be used to determine the makeup of an exoplanet’s atmosphere. As the body passes across its parent star, we’re able to look at measurements of light taken during this transit and compare them to that out of transit to understand more about the planet’s surface. Looking at a lunar eclipse close to home can help us refine our techniques in order to better study the atmosphere of exoplanets far in the distance.

Even if you’re not a scientist, it’s still probably worth stepping outside to take a look at the Super Blue Blood Moon of 2018. While it may not be as spectacular as many media outlets are suggesting, the fact remains that we won’t see an overlap of this kind another time in our lives. Enjoying a brighter and larger moon in the midst of a lunar eclipse is more than worth staying up late or waking up early.