Mark your calendars and get ready to watch the rare ‘super blood wolf moon’ total lunar eclipse on the night of Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019.
Lunar eclipses occur when the Earth’s shadow blocks the sun’s light. There are three types — total, partial and penumbral.
A total lunar eclipse can only happen when the sun, Earth, and moon perfectly align so that the Earth casts a complete (umbral) shadow over the moon. Anything less than perfection creates a partial lunar eclipse or no eclipse at all. During the eclipse, sunlight gets scattered or blocked around the Earth and creates a ring of light around the moon.
This is the first time since 2000 that the total phase of this total lunar eclipse will be visible from the entirety of North and South America, Europe and western Africa. Central and eastern Africa and Asia will see a partial eclipse of the moon.
If you plan to watch the total lunar eclipse from Salt Lake City, timeanddate.com has you covered. This website provides a live animation of what the eclipse approximately looks like in Salt Lake City, as well as a complete breakdown of each phase of the eclipse, which runs a total of 5 hours, 12 minutes.
The total lunar eclipse will begin on Sunday, Jan. 20 at 7:36 p.m. and end on Monday, Jan. 21 at 12:48 a.m. It will reach a maximum around Sunday, Jan. 20 at 10:12 p.m.
To make things even better, you won’t need any special eye protection to view a lunar eclipse. This means that unlike a solar eclipse, such as the one on Aug. 21, 2017, you won’t need to wait around for a pair of eclipse glasses.
The Department of Physics and Astronomy is holding a viewing party at the South Physics Observatory on campus for the entire eclipse, according to Paul Ricketts, director of the U’s South Physics Observatory and interpretive specialist in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
“The ‘blood moon’ portion of the eclipse will begin around 8:30 pm if anybody wants to attend for just that part,” Ricketts said. “If you can’t make it to the Observatory, naked eye viewing is pretty awesome still, and a small pair of binoculars would work fine.”
NASA TV will also be playing the total lunar eclipse live.
Inese Ivans is an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the U. “The most visually exciting times of the event will likely occur as the moon enters and exits the Earth’s umbra — it will probably be very difficult to notice any significant change in light as the moon enters and exits the penumbra,” says Ivans.
A ‘supermoon’ takes place when the moon is at its perigee, the point on its orbit closest to the Earth, and may appear bigger and brighter than a normal full moon. According to NASA, it will be one of the sky’s “most dazzling shows.”
It is referred to as a ‘blood moon’ because the moon takes on a reddish color during totality. This is due to a phenomenon called Rayleigh scattering, which is the same mechanism responsible for colorful sunrises and sunsets.
A lunar eclipse can only occur at a full moon. The first full moon of each year is called a ‘wolf moon’ in many Northern Hemisphere cultures, after folklore in which howling wolves can be heard during this time of the year outside villages.
The upcoming total lunar eclipse on Jan. 20 is part of the Saros series 134. The series has 72 eclipses, 26 of which are total lunar eclipses. It began with a penumbral lunar eclipse on April 1, 1550, and will end with another penumbral eclipse on May 28, 2830.
A solar eclipse always occurs about two weeks before or after a lunar eclipse. The first eclipse of the year was a partial solar eclipse on Jan. 6, 2019. NASA keeps a list predicting lunar eclipses until 2100, as well as data about past lunar eclipses. According to the space agency, the Earth will experience a total of 228 lunar eclipses in the 21st century.
You won’t want to miss out on this spectacular celestial event. The next total lunar eclipse won’t be until May 26, 2021. With no classes on Monday, Jan. 21 in recognition of Martin Luther King Day, you may be able to stay up later on Jan. 20 to view this total lunar eclipse.