A Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse -- sounds pretty spectacular! But will it really be that special in the Washington D.C. area? Here are 4 things you need to know:
1. Why The Long Fancy Name?
Let's break down each part of the name Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse
Super = Supermoon. The moon orbits around the earth in an elliptical path, not a perfect circle. For this reason, at certain times during its orbit it is closer and further away from the earth. A supermoon occurs when a full moon is at its perigee, or closest distance to the earth. The moon will appear 14% bigger and 30% brighter than it's opposite, the apogee mini moon.
Blue = Blue Moon. A Blue Moon is the name for the second full moon within a single calendar month. Most calendar months only have one full moon. And before you ask... no, the moon isn't actually blue!
Blood = Blood Moon. In the case of the lunar eclipse on January 31st, 2018, the moon will undergo a total eclipse. During totality, it will give off a noticeable red hue, due to the way the earth's atmosphere bends the sun's light. That is the reason for the blood moon naming convention.
2. How Does The Eclipse Happen?
A Lunar Eclipse occurs when the earth passes in between the sun and the moon. The moon will fall in earth's penumbra and sometimes umbra shadow depending on the type of eclipse. During the eclipse on Wednesday, the moon will pass first into the earth's outer shadow, the penumbra. This will begin the penumbral lunar eclipse. It will then enter into earth's umbra shadow, beginning the partial lunar eclipse. When the moon falls completely in earth's umbra, totality begins.
3. How Much Of The Event Can I See in D.C.?
Not much at all. Unfortunately, we won't have a view of the total eclipse on the east coast, but you will be able to catch the start of the partial lunar eclipse early Wednesday morning.
You'll want to look at the bottom of the west-northwest horizon, and preferably from an elevated location without trees in the way of your sight of the moonset. Beginning at 5:51 AM, the moon will pass into earth's penumbra and appear slightly less bright and vivid. The best time to look will be between 6:48 AM and sunrise at 7:15 AM. Once the Partial Lunar Eclipse begins at 6:48AM, it will turn a darker shade of gray with a slight reddish hue. The more vivid red hue leading to the "blood moon" naming is only visible during a total lunar eclipse. You will be viewing the eclipse during civil twilight, not in complete darkness. So overall, our viewing experience in D.C. will be uneventful.
This is a simulated image of what the moon will look over DC like just after 7 AM. This is also just a few minutes before moonset and sunrise. If you're paying attention, if we have clear skies and you have a good camera/binoculars/telescope, you'll see a little orange-ish hue on the upper left part of the moon.
5:51 AM: Penumbral Eclipse Will Begin
6:48 AM: Umbral Partial Lunar Eclipse Begins
7:15 AM: Sunrise
To see a great animation of what the moon will look like in DC, click here to see an animation from timeanddate.com.
4. Since I Can't Watch The Full Eclipse In Person, Where Can I Watch It?
Totality will occur in eastern Asia, Australia, and parts of the Pacific. Hawaii and Alaska will have sight of the total lunar eclipse. You will be able to watch on NASA TV