There will be a total eclipse of the moon during the early morning of January 31, 2018 — just before sunrise. I’ve read that it has been about 150 years since the last total lunar Blue Moon eclipse was glimpsed in North America. So this is a pretty spectacular phenomenon. “The January 31 full moon is…the third in a series of three straight full moon supermoons….(and) it’s the first of two Blue Moons in 2018. So it’s not just a lunar eclipse, or a Blue Moon, or a supermoon. It’s all three … a super Blue Moon eclipse!” (EarthSkyNews)
WHAT CAUSES A TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE MOON?
In this case, the “super”moon passes through the Earth’s shadow creating a total eclipse of the moon or a lunar eclipse. “This causes the moon to grow dark and then turn an eerie red color.” (UniverseToday) Could this be why it is often mistakenly called a Blood Moon?
The phases of a lunar eclipse. Photo credit: Keith Burns for NASA/JPL courtesy of Universe Today.
A full moon occurs when the moon is exactly opposite the sun, which means the moon rises just as the sun is setting and sets just as the sun is rising. This also means a lunar eclipse can only happen during a full moon; normally the Earth’s shadow is either too high or too low create a total eclipse. But, partial eclipses occur about once in every six full moons. (Space)
“On January 31, the full moon distance from the Earth will be 360,199 at 13:27 UTC*, while the supermoon distance on January 30 will be 1204 km closer at 356,995 km at 21:54 UTC*.” (EarthSky)
BLUE MOON VS WOLF MOON
During the January 1st supermoon, newscasters were referring to it as a Wolf Moon so I decided to investigate further. It seems the Native Americans called the first full moon in a month a Wolf Moon. There are a number of theories about how it came to be called the Wolf Moon. One is because when wolves howl at night, they turn their faces to the sky to get better projection. And since they are nocturnal, a full moon would certainly give them more light by which to be active. Another theory is because wolves are particularly loud and vocal during the first months of the year. This is the time of the year wolves mate and breed, but it is also when when the cold winter nights make hungry bellies ache.
BAD MOON RISING
Turn up your audio and click on the video featuring Creedence Clearwater!
A SUPERMOON TRILOGY BY NASA
Here’s a good explanation about the special phenomenon we’ve had the privilege of witnessing during the past couple of months.
NASA ScienceCast video about the late 2017 and early 2018 supermoons.