Lunar Eclipse: Blue Blood Supermoon Will Be First of Its Kind for More Than 150 Years

You may have noticed we are in the middle of an astronomical feast, with the skies most recently featuring a supermoon and meteor shower. A royal blue blood supermoon will crown this spectacular season on January 31. This rare coincidence of blue moon, supermoon and lunar eclipse is the first to grace our skies for over 150 years, Phys.org reports.

1_4_Lunar Eclipse Supermoon A super blood moon sits above the Saint-Michel church in Bordeaux, France, September 28, 2015. Nicolas Tucat/AFP/Getty Images

Blue moon

A “blue” moon has nothing to do with color. This is a common term for the second full moon in a month.

New Year’s Day brought us a spectacular wolf full moon, named for the howls of hungry wolves in winter. This moon was also a supermoon, and the brightest moon we will see all year, according to Space.com.

January 31’s full moon just squeezes into the same month, turning it “blue.” While the saying “once in a blue moon” suggests rarity, these events are more common than you might think. On average they occur once every two and a half years. Our next blue moon, however, will take place on March 31 this year.

Supermoon

1_2_Supermoon_04 A passenger plane passes in front of the wolf moon as it approaches Heathrow Airport in London on January 1. Toby Melville/Reuters

The upcoming moon will end what NASA calls a “supermoon trilogy.” Supermoons occur when the full moon coincides with the “perigee” of the lunar orbit. Because the moon travels around Earth in an ellipse it is sometimes closer than usual. The perigee is the nearest point to Earth in the lunar orbit. This makes for a moon that appears bigger and brighter in the night sky. The loyal satellite appears about 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than a full moon at its furthest point from Earth, according to NASA.

The super blue blood moon is not expected to shine as quite brightly as the moon on New Year’s Day, but it will offer something better instead—the red glow of a total lunar eclipse.

Blood moon

1_4_Total Lunar Eclipse A supermoon is pictured during a total lunar eclipse in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, September 28, 2015. Frank Rumpenhorst/AFP/Getty images

On January 31, some U.S-based stargazers will also be treated to a total lunar eclipse. The Earth will sit directly between the sun and the moon, obscuring light which normally reflects brightly. As sunlight is filtered through the Earth’s atmosphere it creates a glowing reddish hue on the surface of the moon. The “blood moon” is named for this color.

Alaska, Hawaii and parts of western U.S. will experience the full eclipse. For the rest of the mainland U.S., the eclipse will be partial.

NASA offers advice on when to look out for this super blue blood moon. “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,” said Noah Petro, a research scientist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center on the agency’s website. “But it’s another great chance to watch the moon.”