NIGHT SKY: North America and Asia ready themselves for the super blue blood Moon

On the 31 January 2018, three amazing astronomical phenomena will combine to create a majestic viewing opportunity


The eclipse, including the penumbral eclipse, will last for over five hours. Image credit: NASA

On the last day of January 2018, an extremely rare astronomical phenomenon will occur. The ‘super blue blood moon’ lunar eclipse will grace western North America as well as the Pacific to eastern Asia. This event hasn’t occurred in over 150 years and is definitely worthy of setting an alarm to watch, assuming the weather allows.

The super blue blood moon is an accumulation of relatively uncommon astronomical events. It consists of a ‘super moon’, which is when the Moon is at its closest approach to Earth – also known as its perigee – making it appear roughly 14 per cent brighter. Another constituent aspect is that it’s a ‘blue moon’, which is the name given to the second full moon in a calendar month. In the regions of the world that will experience a lunar eclipse, there will also be the development of a ‘blood moon’, which is when the Moon enters the shadow of Earth and gains a reddish tint.

“Weather permitting, the West Coast, Alaska and Hawaii will have a spectacular view of totality from start to finish,” says Gordon Johnston, program executive and lunar blogger at NASA’s Headquarters in Washington, United States. “Unfortunately, eclipse viewing will be more challenging in the Eastern time zone. The eclipse begins at 5:51am Eastern Time [10:51am Greenwich Mean Time], as the Moon is about to set in the western sky, and the sky is getting lighter in the east.”

Western America and areas in Asia will be the prime regions to observe the full lunar eclipse. Image credit: NASA

The eclipse will be visible before sunrise on 31 January 2018, if you are viewing from North America. For viewers in the Middle East, Asia, eastern Russia, Australia and New Zealand, the super blue blood moon can be seen during moonrise in the morning of the same day.

With the penumbral eclipse – the partial eclipse from Earth’s outer shadow – beginning at 5:51am ET (10:51am GMT), totality – where the Moon is completely hidden in Earth’s shadow, or umbra – will begin exactly two hours later. Totality will end at 9:07am ET (2:07pm GMT), and the final closing curtain of the ending penumbral eclipse will occur at 11:08am ET (4:08pm GMT).

Unfortunately for the residents of the United Kingdom, the lunar eclipse will not be visible. The super moon and blue moon will remain prominent, making it just the ‘super blue moon’ in the UK. Thankfully, NASA will have live coverage of the event starting at 5:30am ET (10:30am GMT) on 31 January 2018, and it can be found here.

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