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What is a super blue blood moon and why is it so rare?

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The last super blue blood moon was in 1866.

What is a super blue blood moon? 

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A super blue blood moon will be visible for most of North America very early on January 31.

A super blue blood moon will be visible for most of North America very early on January 31.

Highlights

By Marshall Connolly (Catholic Online)
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)
1/24/2018 (3 years ago)

Published in Green

Keywords: Super Blue Blood Moon, eclipse, supermoon

LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - A blood moon is a lunar eclipse. A supermoon is when the moon is closest to Earth and it's Earth-facing side is fully illuminated, or "full." A blue moon is the second full moon in a calendar month. Blue moons are a human phenomenon related to how we keep time, and have nothing to do with the moon's color or appearance. 

The two celestial events that matter are the lunar eclipse and the supermoon. A lunar eclipse takes place when the Moon passes through the shadow cast by Earth into space. As the moon passes through this shadow, it appears to turn red. This is because red light has a long wavelength, so red light waves pass through the Earth's atmosphere while blue light, which has a shorter wavelength, is absorbed. After passing through the atmosphere, this red light hits the surface of the moon and is reflected back toward Earth and into your eyes. 

A supermoon is caused when the moon is both full and at its closest approach to Earth. The Moon does not orbit Earth in a perfect circle but instead has an elliptical orbit which brings it close to Earth, then far each month. If the Moon is fully illuminated by sunlight from Earth's perspective (a full moon) and it is close to Earth, a supermoon is the result.  Most people cannot tell the difference between an ordinary moon and a supermoon. the moon will appear 14 percent bigger in the sky, which is difficult to notice. It will also be 30 percent brighter. The extra light is noticeable only if you are used to watching moonlight. 

On January 31, observers in Hawai'i and around the Pacific rim will have a good view of the super blue blood moon. People in most of Africa and western Europe will miss out as the event happens when the Moon is on the opposite side of the Earth. 

Observers on the west coast of the United States will need to get up early to view the eclipse, which will be total around 4:51 AM. 


Super blue blood moons are uncommon, with the last one seen in 1866. However, another will take place on January 21, 2019. It will not be a blue moon, however, but this makes no difference to what anyone sees since blue moons have to do with our calendar and not the moon.

These events tend to be rare because all three phenomena must happen at the same time. There are usually only a dozen full moons per year, and two lunar eclipses per year and blue moons usually happen about two to three years apart, on average. However, exceptional confluences do occur, as we will see in the early morning of January 31.



 

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