Super Blue Blood Moon 2018: Supermoon and Lunar Eclipse to Light Up the Sky—Here’s How to See It

Updated | January 31 will serve up a phenomenal lunar spectacle. For the first time since 1866, a blue supermoon will coincide with a lunar eclipse. Also the finale of a rare trilogy of supermoons, this will be the last oversized moon until January next year.

The royal super blue blood moon will crown a truly spectacular astronomical season. This winter has already seen the geminid and quadrantid meteor showers sparkle, an interstellar object visit and meteorites rain over Michigan.

1_24_Glastonbury lunar eclipse A supermoon in eclipse is pictured behind Glastonbury Tor in Glastonbury, U.K., on September 27, 2015. Matt Cardy/Getty Images

What Makes the Moon Super?

The moon orbits the Earth in an ellipse, not a circle. This means it sometimes moves closer to us than usual. A supermoon occurs when the moon’s closest approach to Earth coincides with a full moon. Astronomers call this a perigee full moon.

The moon will reach its shortest distance from us at 4:55 a.m. ET January 30, and a full moon will occur the following day. While not a perfect supermoon, it should still shine larger and brighter than usual.

However, the difference might be small to the naked eye. "The next full ‘supermoon’ will appear only 7% bigger and a bit brighter than an average full Moon,” said Italian astrophysicist, Gianluca Masi in a statement.

The best time to see a supermoon is shortly after sunset, when something called the “moon illusion” will make it appear even bigger. The closer the moon is to the horizon, the larger it looks.

How to See the Royal Supermoon Shine Red

1_24_Total lunar eclipse A total lunar eclipse shines over Montevido, Uruguay, April 15, 2014. Mariana Suarez/AFP/Getty Images

The moon won’t really shine blue in the sky—it will glow red. The term “blue moon” refers to the second full moon in a calendar month.  Not as rare as you would think, blue moons happen once every two to three years. In fact, 2018 will see another in March, with no full moon in February.

A spectacular total lunar eclipse will accompany this blue moon, shining red across parts of Russia, Canada, Asia and Australia.

An eclipse occurs when the Earth lines up perfectly with the sun and the moon, casting a shadow that blocks the sun. As light filters through the Earth’s atmosphere it makes the moon glow red. “We will have a very spectacular total lunar eclipse as our satellite will completely sink into the shadow of the Earth,” said Masi.

Unfortunately, only some of the western U.S., including Hawaii and Alaska, will see the full eclipse.

NASA planetary geologist Sarah Noble explained to Newsweek: "Unlike a solar eclipse, which is only visible to those in a narrow swath, a lunar eclipse is usually visible to about half the globe (the half where it is nighttime). For this eclipse, much of the U.S. will be racing against sunrise."

You can check if your nearest city will experience the eclipse using this interactive lunar eclipse model.

Viewers in the eastern U.S., South America and across much of Western Europe and Africa don’t have to miss out on this rare spectacle. You can watch the eclipse live online here with the Virtual Telescope Project. Cameras in Australia and the western U.S. will follow the lunar eclipse from 6:30 a.m. ET January 31. From 11:00 a.m. ET, the website will also host a live stream of the non-eclipsed super blue moon rising over the skyline of Rome.

This article has been updated to include comment from Sarah Noble.

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