The Blue Blood Supermoon: Wednesday’s Total Lunar Eclipse

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This sequence taken during the last total lunar eclipse on Sept. 28, 2015. Pic by: Sean Walker

Get ready for a spectacular ride to work Wednesday, Jan. 31. The Blue Blood Supermoon will only be visible to people along the west coast and Mountain time zone. It is a strange name, but it fits. It’s a blue moon, which is the second full moon in one month. It’s a blood moon — a total lunar eclipse. And it’s a supermoon, when the moon is at its closest distance to Earth in its elliptical path. This is the first total lunar eclipse in more than two years for North America. There are two elements to this eclipse that will make the view spectacular.

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First, the moon looks larger the closer it is to the horizon because of what is called the ‘moon illusion.’ This eclipse occurs while the moon is setting. Being lower on the horizon and being able to compare it to other objects close to Earth should make for some outstanding pictures for those with zoom lenses.

Second, this eclipse is occurring during a supermoon. Supermoons appear 14% bigger and 30% brighter than an average full moon because it is occurring when the moon is closest to Earth. The combination of these two factors will make for an incredible sight.

An example of what 7% bigger across and 13% bigger in area than average looks like. Courtesy: Sky & Telescope

The lunar eclipse begins the moment the moon’s leading edge slips into the penumbra. The penumbra is the area of partial shadow where part of the sun is still visible.

Looking west/southwest – times are PST along the west coast.

Penumbral shading becomes deeper as the moon moves toward the first partial phase, which begins when the moon’s leading edge enters Earth’s umbra. The umbra is the innermost and darkest part of a shadow, where the light from the sun is completely blocked by the Earth. When the moon is within Earth’s umbral cone, no direct sunlight falls on its surface.

Totality starts when the trailing edge of the moon enters the umbra. The length of totality for this year’s lunar eclipse will be 1 hour 16 minutes, slightly longer than the one in 2015.

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The moon is a dark red as it enters Earth’s shadow.  The reason the moon appears a blood red during totality is because the only light that is able to get to the surface of the moon is red.  Imagine being on the moon and looking up at Earth during an eclipse. At that moment you are seeing every sunrise and sunset on Earth. The red ring around Earth is what is refracted to the surface of the moon.

Some of us will be driving to work during the eclipse. The rest of us will have to get up a early. Here is a time table for the west coast. Totality begins at 4:51 a.m. and lasts through 6:08 a.m. The moon will be setting almost due west.

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Pacific Standard Time (MST is different)

I’d love to see your pictures. Please share by tagging @anthonynbcla on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.  You can also send them to Isee@nbcla.com.

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This is a picture I took from the September 2015 eclipse from Universal Studios

The last time this lunar trifecta occurred was December 30, 1982.

The 1866 date that has been going around on the internet was not a Supermoon.

The next blue blood moon will be in 2028 but like 1866 it won’t be a Supermoon.

Our next lunar trifecta will be January 31, 2037 and it will be a similar set up to what we are seeing Wednesday morning.  (favoring the west coast.)

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