Skywatchers getting a lunar trifecta - supermoon, blue moon and eclipse

And while some worn out journalists will kvetch about the hype "it's just a full moon, for heaven's sake" I think it's great. "Set your alarm early and go out and take a look".

Before dawn this Wednesday, Jan. 31, the first total lunar eclipse of its kind in over 150 years will take place. What in the world does that mean?

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What makes the moon look full? (And while, yes, a new moon isn't exactly a full moon, per se, it is full on the other side.) Think of it as the esoteric twin of the exuberant blue moon; see below. Blood moons are so-called for their red appearance.

The next lunar eclipse visible across the United States will be on January 21, 2019. The last time such a lunar event occurred was March 31, 1866.

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As is well known, the start and the end of the Hijric months depend on Moon's motion whether it completes one cycle approximately in every 29.5 days or not, and based on that the length of each Hijric month is decided. This is true only for those in our time zone; consider that residents of Asia and Australia won't have a blue moon this month due to time zone effects that put their full moon in February. Adding to the naming confusion, this full moon was also known as the "snow moon" by some Indigenous tribes.

For Americans who decide to sleep in or don't get a great look at the eclipse, NASA says the January 21, 2019 lunar eclipse will likely be visible across the entire country and it will also be a supermoon (when the Moon reaches its closest point to the Earth).

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The eclipse will offer researchers a chance to see what happens when the surface of the moon cools quickly, helping them to understand some of the characteristics of the regolith - the mixture of soil and loose rocks on the surface - and how it changes over time.

Totality starts at 5:52 a.m. when the moon is completely in the umbral shadow.

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There is some controversy here as to whether or not the moon on January 30 and 31 is actually a Supermoon because the moon will only be near full- not 100 percent- when it is at its closest point to earth.

  • Ryan Wade