A total lunar eclipse is all set to coincide with a “supermoon” on the full moon night this Wednesday. Since it is the second full moon night in January, it is also a blue moon – a rare lunar spectacle that awaits skywatchers in India for the first time in 35 years. In the United States, this last happened 152 years ago.
Moon enthusiasts call such a celestial event a “super blue blood moon” as the moon has a reddish tint at the peak of a total lunar eclipse.
A supermoon is when the moon is at its largest and brightest when seen from earth, because it is as close to the planet as it can be in its orbit. Since the earth is far from the centre of the moon’s elliptical orbit, it offers the moon the chance to be 14% brighter and 7% larger than usual when it is at its “perigee” – the point where it is closest to earth.
This is the third of a “supermoon trilogy” in the last two months – the other two were on December 3 and January 1.
A blue moon – the second of two full moons in the same calendar month – occurs once every two and a half years on an average. This month already had a full moon on January 1.
A total lunar eclipse occurs when the entire moon enters the earth’s shadow. “Some sunlight still reaches the moon, but first it goes through earth’s atmosphere,” the National Aeronautics and Space Administration explains on its website. “The atmosphere filters out most of the sun’s blue light, so the moon looks red.”
No one on earth has seen all three of these coincide since December 1982, according to National Geographic.
The moon will reach the perigee of its orbit – a “supermoon” – at 6 am Eastern Time (4.30 pm Indian Standard Time) on January 30. The total lunar eclipse will be visible early Wednesday in western North America, the Pacific Ocean and Eastern Asia, NASA said. In the US, the West Coast will have the best view of the eclipse.
In India, the eclipse will start around 5.18 pm on Wednesday, The Hindu reported. It will be a total eclipse from 6.21 pm to 7.37 pm, and the moon will come out of the shadow completely at around 8.41 pm.
“Weather permitting, eclipse fans in Hawaii will experience the lunar eclipse from start to finish, as will skywatchers in Alaska, Australia and eastern Asia,” NASA said.