Astronomy · Education · NovElla

The Blue Blood Moon

Maybe you’ve heard the expression “once in a Blue Moon” to mean something rare. But have you ever seen the Moon look blue? What about a Blood Moon? A “super” Moon? Let’s talk about lunar phrases!

Moon Phases

It’s the perfect topic in light of tonight’s lunar eclipse (or tomorrow morning’s…). This is the first of two lunar eclipses in 2018.

Normally, the Moon shines bright because it is reflecting the light of the sun. In a lunar eclipse, the full Moon passes behind the Earth, on the opposite side of the sun. The Earth’s shadow falls across the Moon and we get a lunar eclipse! This causes dramatic temperature swings on the Moon’s surface.

As a total lunar eclipse occurs, the Moon turns a dark crimson color in the shadow of the Earth. That’s why it can also be called a Blood Moon.

The January 31st, 2018 lunar eclipse is extra special because it coincides with other uncommon occurrences.

A so-called “super” Moon occurs when the full (or new) Moon is at a point in its orbit closest to the Earth. While not an official term, the Moon does look bigger and brighter. The Moon orbits in an elliptical pattern, and the point closest to Earth is called perigee. Tonight’s full Moon is close enough to be a “super” Moon.

The second full Moon in a calendar month is called a Blue Moon, although there can be other definitions as well. Tonight’s Moon is the second full Moon in January and therefore the blood Moon is also blue! Blue Moons seem to occur once or twice every few years. The first full Moon in January has had various names over time, such as Ice Moon, Snow Moon, Wolf Moon, or the Moon after Yule.

When researching this post, I even learned that although there is conflicting advice out there, NASA has a style guide saying they always capitalize the Earth’s Moon. So I’ve done that here.

Will you be able to see the lunar eclipse? Check this timetable for your location.


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