How to Watch January's 'Super Blood Wolf Moon' Eclipse

James Marshall
December 30, 2018

After the sun sets on January 20, Americans will be able to see an exceptionally big, bright, red moon glowing in the sky, an event that NASA calls "one of the sky's most dazzling shows".

First, it's a total lunar eclipse, which means the sun and moon will be perfectly aligned on opposite sides of the Earth.

This "super blood wolf moon" gets its name because the eclipse will occur when the moon is full (called a wolf moon in January) and closer to Earth than normal (a super-moon). This means the moon will appear slightly brighter and bigger than usual, known as a supermoon.

Even if you're not an avid astronomer, it's worth tuning in: As Alex Hider reports for WXYZ Detroit, the next total lunar eclipse won't circle back to the US until May 2021. As the moon passes into the earth's shadow during a lunar eclipse, the earth blocks nearly all sunlight from hitting the moon.

There are three reasons why stargazers are calling this event a super blood wolf moon. The only sunlight that gets through is first diffracted by the earth's atmosphere, resulting in the red coloring.

The term "super moon", meanwhile, has to do with the apparent size of the moon.

During a lunar eclipse, Earth's atmosphere scatters blue light and refracts the red - a process similar to what we see during sunrise and sunset. As Robert Roy Britt of Space.com, explains, they can only happen during full moons; in a partial lunar eclipse, Earth's shadow only covers part of the moon, lending it the appearance of a just-bitten apple. January's full moon was dubbed the "wolf moon" because "amid the cold and deep snows of midwinter, the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Indian villages", the Farmer's Almanac says.

In contrast, January's super blood wolf moon will be visible from coast to coast in the US mainland, depending on weather conditions. People in eastern Europe and eastern Africa will only be able to see a partial lunar eclipse, while people in most of Asia won't be able to see any part of the event.

When can people see the super blood wolf moon?

Total lunar eclipses are not that rare - the last one occurred in July 2018 - but this one stands out as a "super blood wolf moon".

Watching a total lunar eclipse is not unsafe - unlike looking at a solar eclipse without protection - so you don't need any special glasses.

When is the next total lunar eclipse?

NASA predicts the next total lunar eclipse will happen on May 26, 2021.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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