(WISH) – For the first time in over 150 years, a super blue blood moon will be visible across most of the globe. Our latest celestial event will take place in Indianapolis in the early morning hours of Wednesday, January 31st. This phenomenon’s lengthy name can be broken down into 3 distinct parts, a supermoon, blue moon and blood moon (also known as a lunar eclipse).
A supermoon is a new or full moon which occurs with the moon at or near (within 90% of) its closest approach to Earth in its’ elliptical orbit. We typically get about 4-6 supermoons per year, though last year we only had one. Every now and then, the cosmos align just right to give us a few supermoons in a row, with our last supermoon earlier in the month and the one before it in December.
What makes this supermoon rare are the other two titles that we get to tack on, one of which is “blue.” The original definition of the term “blue moon” came from having 4 full moons in a season, rather than the normal 3 per season or 12 per year. Our blue moon next week will mark the second full moon in one month, the more common definition of the term nowadays. Due to the calendar quirk, this tends to happen once every 2.7 years or so, which is more uncommon rather than the “once in a blue moon” phrase which usually get tagged to rare events. The moon itself can in-fact appear blue, but it takes an abundance of dust or smoke particles in the atmosphere, which happened after forest fires in Sweden and Canada in 1950 and 1951, and after the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883, which caused the moon to appear blue for nearly two years.
To complete the trifecta, this super blue moon will also coincide with a lunar eclipse, or blood moon. This name does come from the rusty, red color that the moon will become as the moon slides into Earth’s shadow. Total lunar eclipses by themselves are not that rare, usually happening a few times a year. Our next total lunar eclipse will take place on July 27th, but it will only be visible from South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.
To see this event Wednesday, we’ll need to keep the clouds away early Wednesday morning. Right now, I’d say we have a 50/50 shot for good to decent viewing conditions. The moon will be up to 14% larger than normal and significantly brighter than normal all night.
The total eclipse will begin at 6:48 a.m. (when the moon will start to turn red) and peak just over the horizon (nearly fully eclipsed) at 7:50 a.m. as you look west-northwest. Enjoy it while it lasts because the moon will quickly set at 7:53 a.m.