I can’t believe 2018 is here already, but this new year is starting with some spectacular celestial events. It started on January 1, with a full moon. While, that is not spectacular in itself, the fact that there will be another full moon on January 31 is. Many call two full moons in a month a blue moon, and these typically happen every 2.7 years. In full disclosure, March will have a blue moon as well – with full moons on March 1 and March 31. That is because there will be no full moon in the short month of February.
The spectacular does not end with the blue moon, however. The full moon on January 31 is also a supermoon, and there will be a total lunar eclipse. The last time a blue moon, supermoon and total lunar eclipse occurred together was in 1866 (152 years ago). While all of this is exciting, you may be as confused as I was about what all these words mean. Let’s take a little time to figure that out, and then we can find out when it will all take place.
The blue moon is a bit of a misnomer. The moon is usually not blue in color. Somewhere in fairly recent history someone decided that two full moons in a month would be called a blue moon. That is where we get the “once in a blue moon” phrase. These blue moons are due to the length of a moon cycle (aka lunation), which is the time from a new moon to a new moon. This time is approximately 29.53 days, and there are 12 moon cycles each year – one each month. But all months except February are 30 to 31 days in length. This difference between month length and moon cycle length adds up until a year will have 13 moon cycles.
A supermoon is when the moons closest approach to earth in a single orbit coincides with a full moon. This “moon effect” makes the moon appear much larger than normal.
And lastly a lunar eclipse is when the moon passes into the shadow of the Earth. This will actually give the moon a red color.
Now that you are armed with enough scientific knowledge to impress your friends, it is time to find out when you can see it all take place.
The eclipse will begin at 5:48 in the morning on January 31. The total eclipse will be around 6:16 am. The moon will set around the time of sunrise at 7:03 am. So get up a little early on the 31st and make a pot of coffee. Then get everyone else up to join you for a viewing of the super blue blood moon eclipse. If you do happen to miss it this time, I have read a similar event may occur on December 31, 2028. You can mark your calendar for that one.
Always be awed by natures beauty, and it will never disappoint.