Illustration by Abby LeForge.
Illustration by Abby LeForge.

Viewing a Super Blue Blood Moon

A super blue blood moon and it's celestial event, 150 years in the making.

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Once in a blue moon an event occurs that brings us even closer to our nearest solar companion: the moon.

A blue moon and supermoon will occur early Tuesday morning on Jan. 30, followed by a total lunar eclipse, or what some call a “blood moon,” in the early hours of Wednesday, Jan. 31.

A blue moon is the second full moon that occurs within the same month. The blue moon on Jan. 30 at 5:28 a.m. is special, because it is also a supermoon.

A supermoon is when a full moon occurs at the same time the moon reaches its closest position to the earth within its orbit. It has the nearest approach to Earth by our moon that causes it to appear 14 percent larger than the furthest distance. The difference is barely noticeable, but it can be quite amazing paired with other astronomical occurrences.

Tyler Mitchell, a physics professor at Humboldt State who holds a Ph.D in astrophysical and planetary sciences, along with a masters in astronomy, was able to help explain a total lunar eclipse.

“One way to think about it is that during the lunar eclipse, the majority of the sunlight is blocked by the earth, and the only light that can get to the moon is that which is coming through the edge,” Mitchell said.

During a total lunar eclipse, the moon slips into the inner shadow of the earth, called the umbra, creating the appearance of deep “blood” red moon. During a partial lunar eclipse, the moon is only partially covered by the umbra shadow. During a penumbral eclipse, the moon only slightly enters the penumbra: the outer shadow of the earth.

The total lunar eclipse that occurs early on Wednesday will go through all these different phases. The times for the eclipse are below in Pacific Standard Time:

  • Penumbral eclipse begins: 2:51am
  • Partial eclipse begins: 3:48am
  • Total eclipse begins: 4:52am
  • Mid-eclipse: 5:30am
  • Total eclipse ends: 6:08am
  • Partial eclipse ends: 7:11am

The last total eclipse of a blue moon occurred more than 150 years ago. If you look to the sky in the morning on Wednesday, you can see a once in a lifetime event, a super blue blood moon.

Noelle Sully, an environmental studies major minoring in Native American studies at HSU, is the president of the Healing Vibrations Club on campus.

“There is the energy of the moon and the planets, and that energy affects us as well because everything is a frequency,” Sully said. “Everything is in motion: the earth spinning on its axis, the moon circling around us, planets and the sun pulling us through our galaxy.”

The moon’s motion measures a consistent passage of time. Sully said that astronomical and lunar events are worth celebrating, contemplating, a time to practice healing and bring about a connection to change.

“The full moon represents heightened emotion,” Sully said. “The moon, I feel, gives emotional aspects of the inner self.”

The moon has come to mean a great deal throughout human evolution, spiritually representing many different things. For example, the moon has been tied to a woman’s menstrual time and fertility, of ovulating, of conception, of growth and the cycle in which a woman’s body goes through.

Whether you have a spiritual or scientific connection to the moon, you won’t want to miss the events occurring on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Personally I look forward to these things because they bring astronomy and science to the forefront of the public,” Mitchell said. “And to me that is really important, keeping the public interested in science.”

With Trump signing the Space Policy Directive 1 back in December and NASA planning to release the details of their next trip to the Moon in February, humanity’s curiosity with the moon is as strong as it’s ever been.

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