Super Blue Blood Moon Visible Early WednesdayPress Release
SAN ANGELO, TX -- If you live in the western part of North America, Alaska, and the Hawaiian islands, you might set your alarm early Wednesday morning for a lunar trifecta: a pre-dawn “super blue blood moon.”
“For the (continental) U.S., the viewing will be best in the West,” said Gordon Johnston, program executive and lunar blogger at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Set your alarm early and go out and take a look.”
The Jan. 31 full moon is special for three reasons: it’s the third in a series of “supermoons,” when the Moon is closer to Earth in its orbit -- known as perigee -- and about 14 percent brighter than usual. It’s also the second full moon of the month, commonly known as a “blue moon.” The super blue moon will pass through Earth’s shadow to give viewers in the right location a total lunar eclipse. While the Moon is in the Earth’s shadow it will take on a reddish tint, known as a “blood moon.”
If you live in the Central time zone, viewing will be better, since the action begins when the Moon is higher in the western sky. At 4:51 a.m. CST the penumbra -- or lighter part of Earth’s shadow – will touch the Moon. By about 6:15 a.m. CST the Earth's reddish shadow will be clearly noticeable on the Moon. The eclipse will be harder to see in the lightening pre-dawn sky, and the Moon will set after 7:00 a.m. as the Sun rises. “So if you live in Kansas City or Chicago, your best viewing will be from about 6:15-6:30 a.m,” said Johnston. “Again, you’ll have more success if you can go to a high place with a clear view to the West.” 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.