The last full moon of the year, often referred to as the Cold Moon in the Northern Hemisphere, officially marked the beginning of astronomical winter, almost coinciding with the winter solstice last Friday. Now astronomers will be in for another treat just weeks after the New Year begins. The 2019 super blood moon will occur the night of Jan. 20.
Interestingly, 2018’s super blue blood moon occurred on Jan. 31, marking one of the rarest celestial events concerning a full moon. The moon appeared quite large in the sky, hence the “super” part of the description. It also entered a total lunar eclipse and was the second full moon in the same month, which makes it a “blue” moon. The most recent total lunar eclipse took place in July.
What happens during a lunar eclipse?
During a lunar eclipse, the moon’s brightness slowly fades as it enters Earth’s shadow. In a partial lunar eclipse, only a portion of the moon is covered by Earth’s shadow, whereas a full lunar eclipse means the entire moon’s surface falls into shadow. As its shape changes, the moon takes on a rusty texture, while the light creates a sunset-like color.
NASA scientist Noah Petro told Space.com in an interview that a lunar eclipse displays the colors of all the sunrises and sunsets on Earth as the light reachs the moon. If someone were to stand on the moon during a total lunar eclipse, Earth would appear to have a red ring surrounding it.
When the lunar eclipse begins, the full moon starts to dim as it enters Earth’s outer shadow, which is known as the penumbra. The deepest part of Earth’s shadow is called the umbra, and once the moon enters it completely, it becomes a total lunar eclipse, displaying the recognizable reddish tint. The moon takes on the bright-red color when it’s totally in shadow, which is why lunar eclipses are often referred to as a “blood moon.”
“A blood-colored moon is created [by] ash from fires and volcanoes, … dust storms and pollution all filtering sunlight as it scatters around our world. A grey eclipse is clear skies” astronomer and podcaster Pamela Gay told Space.com. “Our world can change the appearance of another world, and during an eclipse, the universe lets us see this color play,”
The 2019 super blood moon will begin late on Jan. 20 in some time zones and last one hour and two minutes, ending after midnight, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center revealed in its lunar eclipse projections. However, all the phases between the full moon and its total-eclipse state will last three hours and 17 minutes. It’s expected to begin on the East Coast at 12:16 a.m. Eastern on Jan. 21.
The next total lunar eclipse after the 2019 super blood moon won’t be until May 26, 2021, and it’s expected to be visible above the Pacific Ocean. People in North America, South America and eastern Asia will be able to watch it peak.