The moon is providing a rare triple treat this week. On Wednesday, much of the world will get to see not only a blue moon and a super moon, but also a total lunar eclipse, all rolled into one. There hasn't been a triple lineup like this since 1982, and the next won't occur until 2037. The eclipse will be visible best in the western half of the U.S. and Canada before the moon sets early Wednesday, and across the Pacific into Asia as the moon rises Wednesday night.
A blue moon is the second full moon in a month. A super moon is a particularly close full or new moon. A full lunar eclipse - or blood moon - has the moon completely bathed in Earth's shadow.
NASA program executive Gordon Johnston said: "The next full Moon will be on Wednesday morning, January 31, 2018, appearing 'opposite' the Sun at 5:27 AM PST."
Viewers on the west coast will be treated to the total eclipse phase from start to finish, though the penumbral shadow will pass after the Moon has set. The umbral eclipse begins at 3:48 a.m. Pacific Time. At 4:51 a.m., totality will begin, with best viewing between about 5:00 and 6:00 a.m. local time. The totality phase ends about 6:05 a.m.
Beginning at 2:30 a.m. PST on Jan. 31, a live feed of the Moon will be offered on NASA TV and NASA.gov/live. You can also follow at @NASAMoon. Weather permitting, the NASA TV broadcast will feature views from the varying vantage points of telescopes at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California; Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles; and the University of Arizona’s Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter Observatory.
What do you get when you have a supermoon, which also happens to be the 2nd full Moon of the month, passing through Earth’s shadow during a total lunar eclipse? A #SuperBlueBloodMoon! Catch this lunar trifecta coming our way just before dawn tomorrow: http://go.nasa.gov/2FsFhxO
If you miss the Jan. 31 lunar eclipse, you’ll have to wait almost another year for the next opportunity in North America. Johnston said the Jan. 21, 2019 lunar eclipse will be visible throughout all of the U.S. and will be a supermoon, though it won’t be a blue moon.
Johnston has been following and writing about the Moon since 2004, when he and about 20 colleagues at NASA Headquarters would get together after work during the full moon in “celebratory attire”—which for Johnston meant his signature bow tie. Long after the socializing fell by the wayside, Johnston’s monthly blog lives on, with a dedicated following on NASA’s lunar website, moon.nasa.gov.
Said Johnston, “I have always been fascinated by the night sky. Most of what we can see without a telescope are points of light, but the Moon is close enough that we can see it and the features on it, and notice what changes and what stays the same each night.”
To watch a NASA ScienceCast video, A Supermoon Trilogy about the Dec. 3, 2017, Jan. 1, 2018, and Jan. 31, 2018 supermoons, click here.
Love to observe the Moon? It’s easy to make a Moon Phases Calendar and Calculator that will keep all of the dates and times for the year’s phases of the Moon at your fingertips.
(story: Tricia Talbert, NASA.gov; image and video: NASA.gov)