There Will Be A Very Special Full Moon On New Year's Day

The Supermoon of December 3, 2017, beautifully captured near Alameda, California. David Yu/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Just in time to properly introduce the new year, the night sky of January 1, 2018, will be graced with a rare "Wolf Moon" supermoon.

The first full moon of January is nicknamed the “Wolf Moon”, apparently in accordance with certain Native American traditions, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. Other sources, however, claim that the name has Anglo-Saxon origins. Either way, it just so happens that this year’s Wolf Moon will occur on New Year's Day and will also be a supermoon, according to NASA.

Supermoons appear around 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than your typical full Moon. That might sound like a lot (and the name does sound impressive), but don’t expect to be totally blown away as the results are not always noticeable to the naked eye.

Nevertheless, it’s still fascinating. Supermoons occur because the Moon has an elliptical orbit, taking a monthly trip around our planet in an egg-shaped path. When the Moon becomes full on the same day its orbit is closest to the Earth (known as its perigee), it will appear larger and brighter to us Earthlings.

“The supermoons are a great opportunity for people to start looking at the Moon, not just that once but every chance they have!” Noah Petro, a research scientist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, noted in a statement.

Don’t worry if you’re still in bed recovering from the night before and miss it, the Wolf Supermoon is actually the second part of a recent supermoon trilogy, the first of which occurred on December 3, 2017, and the third of which will occur on January 31, 2018. As you may know, a second full moon in a calendar month is also known as a “Blue Moon”. Some believe that this is the origin of the phrase "once in a blue moon", owing to the relative rarity of the phenomenon. The January 31 supermoon will also take on a mild red tinge, sometimes called a “Blood Moon”.

That means the supermoon on the January 31, 2018, will be a “blue blood supermoon” – what a mouthful!

“The lunar eclipse on January 31 will be visible during moonset. Folks in the Eastern United States, where the eclipse will be partial, will have to get up in the morning to see it,” added Petro. “But it’s another great chance to watch the Moon.”

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