A Super Blood Blue Eclipsed Moon? Let's just say the moon will look a bit weird Wednesday
Wednesday morning not only marks the end of January (or the 68th anniversary of Seattle's coldest day on record) but it's also the convergence of three coincidences that will make this particular full moon a bit unusual.
First of all, it's coinciding with a lunar eclipse -- the most exciting facet of the lunar hat trick. The moon's eclipse will begin at 2:51 a.m. Pacific time, but won't start getting really noticeable until just before 4 a.m. with the official eclipse lasting between 4:51 a.m. and 6:07 a.m. (peak at 5:29 a.m.). Technically the eclipse lasts until 7:11 a.m. but the moon will be setting around this time and will become difficult to find thanks to the looming mountains and buildings as it heads for the horizon.
Unlike our exciting solar eclipse last August, the moon doesn't go totally dark like a new moon, but instead turns a reddish-brown hue -- it's actually the projection of the colors of all of Earth's sunsets and sunrises at that moment. The weather on the globe where the sun is setting/rising at the moments of full eclipse can effect the shade the moon turns, as if it's cloudier it'll be dimmer than, say if most of those regions are clear.
The moon will be slightly larger than usual too!
But it's not just a lunar eclipse, it's also a Super Moon! The Super Moon is a relatively new term in the popular culture (like "polar vortex" and "bomb cyclone") and has come to describe a full moon that occurs at or near when the moon makes its closest approach to Earth on its elliptical orbit. This is the third Super Moon in a row as the last two full moons were also Super Moons. (Three more and they get to form their own Justice League!)
The moon will appear *slightly* larger and brighter than normal -- well, aside from that whole eclipse thing -- but probably not enough to really notice by just looking at it. Still, it gives us another cool name to use on our headline!
And the moon will be blue too? Not quite...
As if a Super Lunar Eclipsed Moon wasn't enough (last time that happened was 1982) it will also be a Blue Moon -- in the sense that it's the second full moon of the month. That is, if you define a blue moon that way.
It used to be that it was the third full moon when you had four in a three month period, but then someone writing an article in Sky & Telescope magazine in 1943 goofed up their interpretation of a Blue Moon and wrote instead that it was the second full moon in a month. Oops.
But over the next decades it went the mid-20th Century version of viral (grabs typewriter, writes letter to friend, "hey did you see this article?", finds envelope and stamp, mails it, waits six-seven days to get hand written response, "cool! (smile) I will share this with my friends at the next book club and dial up my science friend on this rotary phone!") and now everyone thinks that's the definition. Since the cat is long out of the bag, it's now an accepted alternate, like how you can spell "gray" with an 'e' or combine hazelnut and vanilla in a latte.
Sadly, the moon doesn't actually turn blue because that would be an awesome sight with the orange tinge of the lunar eclipse. Then again, it'd remind us all of the Denver Broncos (shudder).
It's January -- was this worth my time to read since clear skies are like unicorns now?
Hmm... it has rained on every day for over two weeks in Seattle leading up to this. We have to be due for some clear skies eventually, right?
The good news is doesn't look stormy -- we appear to be in between storms Wednesday morning. There will be a few scattered showers about but most areas will be dry. But as for clearing? Forecast charts show generally mostly cloudy skies -- but not quite all cloudy. Thus we could have some breaks in the overcast to snag a glimpse of the Super Blood Blue Lunar-Eclipsed Sphere of rock.
The only cost is an early alarm set for 5 a.m. Hey, you might actually beat the traffic for once?
If you do miss this, no worries. There will be another moon that is eclipsed during its Blue and Super time frames -- in 2037. Maybe it'll be acceptable to mix three coffee flavors by then?
If you do get a photo of the eclipsed super moon, we'd love to see it! You can either submit it to Burst.com, post it on social media tagged #SoNorthwest , or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org