Blue, Super, Eclipse: The Moon Hits the Trifecta

Triple lineup on Wednesday hasn't happened since 1982
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 30, 2018 10:05 AM CST
Get Ready for the 'Super Bowl of Moons'
In this Aug. 28, 2007, file photo, the moon takes on different orange tones during a lunar eclipse seen from Mexico City. During a lunar eclipse, the moon can take on a colorful appearance, from bright orange to blood red to dark brown and, rarely, very dark gray.   (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File)

The moon is providing a rare triple treat this week. On Wednesday, much of the world will get to see not only a blue moon and a supermoon, but also a total lunar eclipse, all rolled into one. There hasn't been a triple lineup like this since 1982, and the next won't occur until 2037, per the AP. The eclipse will be best visible in the western half of the US and Canada before the moon sets early Wednesday, and across the Pacific into Asia as the moon rises Wednesday night into Thursday. The US East Coast is out of luck: The moon will be setting just as the eclipse gets started. Europe and most of Africa and South America also will pretty much miss the show. A blue moon is the second full moon in a month. A supermoon is a particularly close full or new moon, appearing brighter and bigger. A total lunar eclipse—or "blood moon," for its reddish tinge—has the moon completely bathed in Earth's shadow.

"I'm calling it the Super Bowl of moons," lunar scientist Noah Petro says. Others prefer "super blue blood moon." Either way, it's guaranteed to impress, provided skies are clear. The moon will be closest to Earth on Tuesday—just over 223,000 miles. As the sun lines up with Earth, and then the moon, for the eclipse, scientists will make observations from a telescope in Hawaii and collect data from NASA's moon-circling Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Just like the total solar eclipse in August cooled the Earth's surface, a lunar eclipse cools the moon. It's this abrupt cooling—from the heat of direct sunlight to essentially a deep freeze—that researchers will be studying. Totality will last more than an hour. "The moon really is the key to understanding the solar system," Petro says. NASA plans a livestream from telescopes in California and Arizona, beginning at 5:30am EST.

(More supermoon stories.)

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