COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Early Wednesday morning, Jan. 31, will bring a rare treat for skygazers in many parts of the world: It’s a full moon on the night of Jan. 31, and the second one in one calendar month, so it becomes a blue moon by our modern definition.
It also happens to be a supermoon on Jan. 30-31, according to NASA, meaning the full moon is closest to Earth (perigee).
Add to that a total lunar eclipse that will be visible in parts of the world, and you have a rare conjunction of events—something like a “super blue blood moon” in less than poetic terms.
The challenge for central Ohio viewers will be two-fold: increasing high clouds during the predawn hours on Wednesday, and a narrow window to view the partial lunar eclipse (a slim dark segment of the lunar disc).
This will require an unobstructed view of the west-northwest before moonset in Columbus (7:41 a.m.). If the lower west-northwest sky is relatively clear, you potentially could see the sinking moon in Earth’s outer shadow (penumbra).
Over the western half of the country, the moon will be higher in the sky before dawn at the beginning of eclipse, allowing for a view of the 76-minute-long passage through the umbra–Earth’s deep shadow–during the total lunar eclipse.
In the United States, the best viewing (total lunar eclipse) will be in the Western states.
On Jan. 31, the sun, moon and Earth line up (syzygy), so that Earth’s shadow blocks sunlight normally reflected off the moon. Earth passes between the sun and moon, causing the moon to turn reddish for a little more than an hour.
The reason is that as the moon slips behind Earth’s shadow, reflected sunlight is scattered away and refracted (bent) by the atmosphere, leaving us with a reddish tint, or coppery “blood moon.”
According to Space.com, the last total eclipse of a blue supermoon in North America occurred on Mar. 31, 1866, though other parts of the world witnessed this trifecta in 1982.
The next super blood moon visible in the United States occurs on Jan. 21, 2019. However, it will be a longer wait for a blue moon during a total lunar eclipse–not until Dec. 31, 2028.
In Ohio, we will not see this combination until July 31, 2048, making this trifecta such a rare event!