Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Once in a blue moon...

Time-lapse image of a total lunar eclipse and "blood" moon 
(Photo Fred Espenak - NASA.com)
Once-in-a-blue-moon is a non-astronomical term referring to the presence of two full moons within a single month. Oddly enough, this phenomena is not that rare, occurring on average every 2.5 years. As a matter of fact, we will see two blue moons this year, Wednesday morning and again in March.

The thing that makes this particular blue moon special is the celestial trifecta accompanying it early Wednesday morning. The full Wolf moon will be in Perigee, the moons closest approach to the earth. This makes it appear as a super moon, up to 14 percent larger, and 30 percent brighter by some estimates. There will also be a full lunar eclipse occurring, as the moon enters the shadow of the earth, essentially cutting off the sunlight that reflects off the moon. This will create a rusty orange appearance, or blood moon. In a nutshell: a super moon blood moon and lunar eclipse all at once.  This is truly a are event, happening the last time on March 31, 1866.

Here in Montreal, there is a very small window of opportunity for viewing this event. We will only experience a partial eclipse, as the moon will set before totality occurs. You will have to be awake in the pre-dawn hours, watching the western horizon for this spectacular show. The eclipse will start at 6:48AM EST, with moonset in Montreal occurring at 7:17am. Thankfully the weather will be clear, crisp and cold, perfect for viewing. Enjoy, and as always, be safe!

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