Get Ready For January's Super Blood Wolf Moon

The Blood Moon. ikhsan_18/Shutterstock

The Moon, our natural satellite, gets given the coolest names each time it undergoes a change. When a full moon happens at its closest point to Earth (the perigee), it is called a supermoon because of its enhanced brightness. And when it is eclipsed by the shadow of the Earth, it is called a blood moon as it turns a crimson color.

Next month, these phenomena will happen together and given that the January full moon is called the Wolf Moon, we get the ultimate cool name of Super Blood Wolf Moon. On the night of January 20, people in North and South America, as well as small parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia, will witness the Moon slowly darken before turning red.

Visibility of the upcoming lunar eclipse. NASA

The eclipse will begin at 10.33pm EST (3.33am the next day in GMT), as our satellite enters the Earth’s shadow. The full eclipse with the Moon turning red will begin just over an hour later, at 11.41pm EST (4.41am GMT), and will peak at 12.16am (5.16am GMT) on January 21. It will last until 12.43am EST (5.43am GMT) before slowly moving away from the shadow cast by our planet.

Lunar eclipses happen when the Moon crosses the shadow of the Earth from the Sun. During the total eclipse phase, light from the Sun filters through the atmosphere, where it is scattered, and is reflected by the Moon. The Moon turns red for the same reason that sunsets are red.

Animation of where the upcoming eclipse will happen in the sky. Tomruen via Wikimedia Commons

Lunar and solar eclipses are not a common occurrence because the Moon doesn’t orbit around the Earth on the same plane the Earth orbits around the Sun. So, eclipses only occur when the Earth, Moon, and Sun are in a syzygy, a wonderful astronomical term used to describe three bodies in perfect alignment. So to witness an eclipse, you need our planet, our Moon, and our star to be in line, and you need to be somewhere on Earth where the event is visible. 

There will be 87 lunar eclipses in the 21st century, only 28 of which will be supermoons. Unsurprisingly, supermoons are quite rare, but we have been lucky lately. Last January, we had another Super Blood Moon. If you miss this January's lunar eclipse, you’ll have to wait until May 26, 2021. 



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