Have you heard people talking about a “super blue blood moon” and found yourself wondering what all the fuss is about? Well wonder no longer! Here’s everything you need to know about the once-in-a-lifetime event coming to a sky near you (weather permitting) this week.
What on Earth is a Super Blue Blood Moon?
It may sound like the name of a badly translated Japanese arcade game, but it’s actually an incredibly rare lunar event in which a total lunar eclipse occurs with a blue moon, a.k.a. an extra full moon which takes place due to a quirk of the calendar.
Confusingly, the term “blue moon” doesn’t actually mean a moon that’s blue, but rather a rare case (which happens around every 2.7 years) in which there are two full moons in one calendar month. A “blood moon,” however, does refer to a red moon, since it involves a total lunar eclipse, which makes the moon appear a reddish color, thanks to scattered light from the sun.
As for the “super” bit? That refers to the fact that the moon is slightly closer to Earth than normal and therefore appears bigger in the sky and around 14 percent brighter. Add all of that lunar awesomeness up and you get a super blue blood moon.
This sounds pretty uncommon.
You can say that again! We’ve covered the fact that a blue moon takes place approximately every 2.7 years (and that’s apparently enough to get it considered rare enough for its own “once in a blue moon” expression.)
A super blue blood moon is rarer than a deck of mint condition Charizard cards, though. The last time all three elements came together in the Western hemisphere was in 1866, back when Andrew Johnson was President and Tennessee became the first U.S. state to be readmitted to the Union following the American Civil War. Needless to say, you’re probably not going to see another of these.
Okay, I’m sold. When does this it take place and how do I watch it?
It takes place later this week just before sunrise on Wednesday, January 31. Depending on where you are, you’ll be able to see it at different times. If you live in Washington, DC, it’ll be visible at approximately 7.15am EST, in New York, NY it’s 7.06am EST, in Chicago, IL it’s 7.06am CST, in Kansas City, MO it’s 7.28am CST, in Denver, CO it’s 7.12am MST, in Phoenix, AZ it’s 7.29am MST, in Los Angeles, CA it’s 6.57am PST, and in Seattle, WA it’s 7.44am PST.
The best places to watch it in North America are apparently California and western Canada. It will also be visible during moonrise on January 31 in Asia, the Middle East, Russia and Australia. Don’t worry if you can’t see it too well (or at all), however, because NASA and Virtual Telescope will be handily livestreaming the event here. Needless to say, that didn’t happen in 1866.
Is it safe to look at?
It is indeed. Unlike a solar eclipse, you can check out the super blue blood moon in all its glory with no protective eyewear necessary. Enjoy!