Every year January starts with a bang, offering a fresh start and new opportunities. But before the month ends, people might want to look to the skies for one of January’s final gifts: a super blue moon eclipse on Jan. 31.
It’s a combination of three different astronomical events: a total lunar eclipse, supermoon and blue moon. And it hasn’t happened in more than 150 years, according to Space.com.
The super blue moon eclipse is the first of only two total lunar eclipses for 2018. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, Earth and its moon are aligned. The earth is positioned in the middle, casting its shadow completely over the moon.
Total lunar eclipses only happen during a full moon, a phase in the moon’s cycle when it is completely visible from Earth. But the viewing of the lunar eclipse will be especially cool because the full moon will also be a supermoon. A supermoon described the appearance of the moon when it orbits closer to Earth. The moon will look larger and brighter than normal.
The last thing that makes this eclipse awesome? This is the second full moon in January. The first happened on New Year’s Day. When there are two full moons in one month, it’s called “blue moon.” (It doesn’t actually look blue. It doesn’t even look different, to be frank). The only other blue moon for 2018 will happen in March — March 1 and March 31, to be exact.
OK, so that explains the name, “super blue moon eclipse” (A lunar eclipse that occurs on a supermoon that also happens to be a blue moon). But what exactly does that look like? This is how National Geographic explains it: “Earth’s dark shadow will slowly creep over the bright lunar disk as the planet moves between the sun and the moon.” And basically, as this happens, light from the sun bounces off Earth and onto the moon making it appear a reddish-yellow color. This is why some people call a total lunar eclipse a “blood moon” (unlike last year’s solar eclipse, it’s completely safe to see with the naked eye).
The celestial event will begin at 6:48 a.m., but will be best viewed from the western Pacific Ocean, Alaska, western Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Indonesia, the Philippines, China, and Japan, according to National Geographic.
Here in Miami, we’ll only be able to view a partial super blue moon eclipse because the time of totality coincides with sunrise. And it won’t be particularly impressive.
The last time a total lunar eclipse was visible in Miami was on Dec. 21, 2010, which also happened to be the winter solstice — a rare event that hadn’t happened since 1638.
The cool thing is that NASA has predicted every lunar eclipse expected to occur within the next century. Go science!