This celestial event hasn’t happened in 150 years.
Last August, we became space aficionados. We talked to our friends and coworkers about the solar eclipse for weeks, then donned 3D glasses and settled on a hill to risk our eyesight watching the moon and sun play a game of cosmic chicken.
The hype has since simmered down, so we’re in need of a new astronomical phenomenon to marvel over.
Thankfully, space is delivering: On the morning of Jan. 31, a “super blue blood moon” will occur for the first time in 150 years. NASA’s calling it a “lunar trifecta.” What do these cosmic buzzwords actually mean?
Let’s break it down.
NASA is calling it a ‘lunar trifecta’ — the second full moon this month, a supermoon & a lunar eclipse visible from much of North America.
A “blood moon” happens during a total lunar eclipse, when the moon passes through the earth’s shadow, resulting in the moon taking on a reddish, coppery tint, creating the “blood” look.
Unlike a solar eclipse, lunar eclipses aren’t blinding, so you can leave the protective glasses at home.
I'm super excited for the super blue blood moon next week mostly because it's fun to say
— Small Deer (@PocketGrok) January 26, 2018
The “super” element is the size. It’s going to be a full moon at “perigee,” which is the point in the moon’s orbit when it’s the closest to Earth.
Better grab your sunnies, too, because the supermoon on Jan. 31 will also appear 14% brighter than usual. (This isn’t terribly rare: We’re treated to supermoons three or four times a year.)
I’m ready for the super blue blood moon on the 31st tbh because I can’t handle all of this intensely charged energy swirling around anymore ?
— yazzie (@yazmeme) January 26, 2018
The “blue” part, sadly, isn’t really a reference to the moon’s color: When there are two full moons in one month, the second one is called a “blue moon.” (Hence the phrase, “Once in a blue moon.”)
Since full moons occur every 29 days or so, the first full moon of the month needs to fall within the first couple days of the month for there to be a chance of a second full moon happening before the month is over. This happens once every three or so years.
Space nerds on North America’s west coast, Alaska and Hawaii are in place for prime viewing of the pre-dawn cosmic event, likely in its totality.
NASA says best viewing will be from 5-6 a.m. PST. You may catch a glimpse of it in the Midwest or on the East Coast, but the sky will already be light, so you won’t see it in its full glory.
An East Coaster’s best bet is to get on high ground with a view of the horizon opposite the sunrise around 6:45 a.m. EST.
As for the rest of the world, Australia, New Zealand, Asia and the Middle East will be able to see the special moon.
Above: Times and locations where you (might) be able to see the blood moon on Jan. 31. (Image via NASA)
If you’re not geographically blessed or just don’t want to leave your house, still set your alarm: NASA will stream the event live on its website and tweet updates on @NASAMoon. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until January 21, 2019 for the next lunar eclipse—and it won’t even be a blue moon.
Top image via Vladimir Smirnov/TASS/Getty Images