A super blue blood moon will be making an appearance in less than a week, marking the first time we’ve seen such an event in our lifetime. The name “super blue blood moon” may be difficult to decipher, so we’ll break down what exactly is special about this astronomical event as well as the best way for you to witness it for yourself.
What Is A Super Blue Blood Moon?
The name Super Blue Blood Moon refers to the coincidence of three separate lunar events. The visibility of all three at once will vary, but you’ll be able to see at least one or two of the events with the knowledge that all three are occurring for the first time in 150 years.
In an interview with Newsweek, NASA planetary geologist Sarah Noble elaborated on what exactly is significant about this rare Super Blue Blood Moon.
“Supermoon” is a popular term for what astronomers call a “perigee full moon”…In general, perigee full moons can be up to 14 percent bigger than apogee full moons, and up to 30 percent brighter…The difference in size is very difficult for our eyes to discern, but the moon will probably be noticeably bright. That is mostly due to it being slightly closer to us, but also the moon always looks brighter in the winter.”
During the winter evenings, the Earth faces away from the center of the Milky Way and towards the bright spiral arm. Because of this change in perspective, the stars and moon appear clearer due to the fact that we’re looking out into deep space rather than towards the center of our galaxy – an area with a lot of activity and space dust.
Newsweek reports that the best time to look for the supermoon is shortly after sunset when the moon is first starting to rise. At this point, the moon tends to appear larger (although the reasons why are currently unknown.) It’s also important to keep in mind that the weather in your current location will affect the visibility of the moon, so even though the moon is brighter and larger, your view may be less impressive than that of someone in a clearer area.
A Blue Moon refers to the second full moon in a single month. While we normally only have one per month, we see a month every few years that has two separate occurrences, and this is labeled as a blue moon (with no reference to the lunar color.)
“Interestingly, using the modern definition, we will actually have two blue moons this year, one in January and one in March, with no full moon in February,” said Noble.
The “Blood Moon” part of super blue blood moon simply refers to a lunar eclipse. During an eclipse, the booth glows red due to the lineup of the sun, Earth, and moon.
“The sun, Earth and moon line up so perfectly that the Earth’s shadow blocks the sun…The moon does indeed turn reddish during the full eclipse—an effect of some sunlight passing through Earth’s atmosphere getting scattered and bent….You’re basically seeing all the world’s sunrises and sunsets at that moment reflected off the surface of the Moon, so it should be quite spectacular,” said Noble.
Where’s The Best Place To See The Super Blue Blood Moon?
The lunar eclipse part of the super blue blood moon can generally be seen by around half of the world, where the evening lines up with the astronomical lineup. Noble told Newsweek that “For this eclipse, much of the U.S. will be racing against sunrise. Those who get up early in the west will have the opportunity to see the full eclipse, but for those of us on the east coast, we’ll only see a partial eclipse—the moon will set before it reaches totality.”
If you’re not in an eclipse area, however, you can still get a great look at this once-in-a-lifetime event by visiting the live stream of either NASA or the Virtual Telescope Project. The NASA coverage is set to begin at 5:30 AM Eastern and end at 11:30 AM Eastern.
So if you’d like to get a look at the super blue blood moon and you’re in an area where the moon will be visible during the lineup, simply step outside and look up. For those who can’t watch it naturally, make sure you tune in to the stream for a look at an event that no one alive will see again.