Super Blood Moon, Wolf Moon, Or Lunar Eclipse? Why January's Moon Is All 3
As this Sunday night, January 20, bleeds into Monday morning, people around the world will take a collective look up to watch one of the year's more anticipated celestial moments.
Known by a few variations of the same name—"Super Blood Wolf Moon," "Super Blood Moon," "Super Wolf Blood Moon"—the somewhat sinister-sounding lunation is the convergence of three occasions. They are:
- A total lunar eclipse
- A supermoon
- A wolf moon
Let's break down what each one means, so you can fully appreciate this rare event and impress your friends with your astronomical know-how.
What's a total lunar eclipse?
Lunar eclipses happen when Earth sits directly between a full moon and the sun. This funny configuration means that we here on Earth can actually see our planet's shadow reflected in the moon. The splattering of sunlight that goes on as this is happening can give the moon a red-orange tint, hence the name blood moon.
The last blood moon graced the skies on January 31, 2018, and we won't see another one until May 2021. The time of totality, when the moon appears its brightest, will last a little over an hour, and you can find out when it'll happen in your time zone with this chart. Keep in mind that depending on where you are in the world, the moon will look a little different.
"Lunar eclipses...reflect our world. A blood-colored moon is created [by] ash from fires and volcanoes, dust storms, and pollution all filtering sunlight as it scatters around our world. A gray eclipse is clear skies," astronomer and podcaster Pamela Gay tells Space.com. "Our world can change the appearance of another world, and during an eclipse, the universe lets us see this color play."
From an astrological perspective, lunar eclipses represent a moment of reckoning and reflection. "[They] give us a glimpse into what Carl Jung referred to as the 'shadow self,'" mbg's go-to astrologers, The AstroTwins, explain. "We all want to think of ourselves as good, kind people, but hey—we're also human! What we discover about ourselves and others during lunar eclipses can be tough to admit, even shocking. Still, this gives us the opportunity to embrace our wholeness and see where we have room to grow in new directions."
What's a supermoon?
So we know that this Sunday is a full moon (because that's the only moon phase that results in a lunar eclipse), but it's also a supermoon! Supermoons usually occur three or four times a year, when the full moon is orbiting especially close to Earth. Well, "close" is a relative term here. By definition, supermoons come within about 224,775 miles of our planet. Since the moon is closer, it appears larger in the night sky and is dubbed "super."
What's a wolf moon?
Full moons have taken on different nicknames through time, based on when they fall in the year. In the olden days, when wolves gathered and howled in midwinter, people started referring to the January moon as a Wolf Moon, and the name stuck. In some cultures, it has also been called the Old Moon, Ice Moon, Snow Moon, and the Moon after the Yule.
And with that primer, you're ready to grab your camera and get that #SuperBloodMoon hashtag prepped for what will hopefully be an epic sky show this weekend.
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