5 Things You Should Know About the Super-Blood-Harvest Moon Total Lunar Eclipse this Sunday!

The countdown to the Super-Blood-Harvest Moon total Lunar Eclipse is winding down and many people can’t wait to see what the sky has to offer on September 27-28. Knowing that we won’t see another Supermoon Blood moon until 2033, this lunar occurrence is pretty special and a pretty spooktacular way to kick off fall and the official start to the Halloween season.

Before you join your friends and family for some Supermoon fun, find the 5 Must-Knows about the Supermoon—then, check out some of the urban legends and history behind the moon below.

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Credit: Space.com

Why is a Supermoon so super?

Our staff at the Museum think our Moon is pretty super every day of the year, but in this case, we are talking about a lunar occurrence that in the modern day has been named “the Supermoon”. We think Mega Moon sounds better because it’s alliterative, but hey, we can’t be picky when it comes to our favorite moon in the galaxy.

A Supermoon occurs when a full moon is closest to the Earth on its elliptical orbit. This results in the moon looking slightly larger in the sky to people on Earth. The technical name for a Supermoon is the perigee-syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun System, but Supermoon seems easier to pronounce, right?

Just how rare is a Supermoon? On average, every 14th full moon is a Supermoon.

eclipse_total_espanek_10-27-2004-e1358526755212What gives the moon that red tinge, famously deemed a “Blood Moon?”

Interestingly enough, a Blood Moon is not a term that astronomers commonly use. Expanding on that, actually calling something a “Blood Moon Total Lunar Eclipse” is redundant. Why? Because what gives the moon a red tinge is actually the total lunar eclipse itself!

Here’s why: During a lunar eclipse, the Earth’s shadow slowly moves across the Moon’s face, which appears dark. However, when the Earth’s shadow completely covers the Moon, it suddenly looks like is has been painted entirely red.

This actually has a lot to do with how sunlight moves through our atmosphere. Sunlight is composed of a range of frequencies, many of which are filtered out, but the least affected on the light spectrum is reddish in color. When this red-tinged light enters our atmosphere it is refracted (bent) towards the surface and again on the other side of the Earth. This double refraction sends the reddish light onto the Moon’s face during a total lunar eclipse—and then boom! Blood Moon (which is actually just a total lunar eclipse).

BloodMoon34What happens during a total lunar eclipse?

Much like Peter Pan had a rascally shadow, everything, including the Earth, does too. A Lunar Eclipse happens when the Moon passes directly into the Earth’s shadow. Because they are aligned, you will see a total Lunar Eclipse. Of course, this can only happen when the moon is full.

What, in fact, is a Harvest Moon?

The Harvest Moon is a name for the moon with no astronomical significance, and has a lot to do with the changing of the seasons. We just celebrated the autumnal equinox, making it officially fall. The Harvest Moon is the first full moon after the autumnal equinox, which also happens to be the same evening as the total Lunar Eclipse.

LunarEclipseViews

Click on the image to learn more. Credit: Space.com

Will I be able to see the Super-Blood-Harvest Moon Total Lunar Eclipse where I live?

The short answer? Maybe. The good news is that half the planet will be able to watch this spectacular moon display, however, not if you live in an area that happens to have bad weather that evening.

Of course, as with most of our Friday night observing in the Apollo Observatory, everything in the sky is, “weather permitting”. If there are thick rain clouds around where you live, you are not in luck! However, if it’s a clear night and you live in the Western Hemisphere, especially in America and Western Europe, you will be able to witness the Supermoon eclipse in all its glory.

The partial eclipse begins at 9:07 PM EDT Sunday night, the total eclipse (blood moon) is from 10:11 to 11:23 PM, and the partial eclipse ends at 12:27 AM.  The partial eclipse can be described as when the Moon is partly in and partly out of the shadow, and will look white with a bite taken out of it.

West-Coasters: Unfortunately, the first partial stage of the eclipse will already be occurring when the moon rises as the sun sets. However, you’ll still be able to see catch the best parts on Sunday!

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Credit: HowStuffWorks.com

Fun Facts and Myth-Busts:

  • The term “Blood Moon” was originally a religious term coined by a Christian pastor.
  • The moon is made out of cheese? I think we all know that is entirely false. However, this was a popular fable in 16th and 17th century English literature.
  • Why do wolves howl at the moon? If you see this happen, it’s entirely coincidental. Researchers have found no correlation between the moon and howling canines. However, because wolves are nocturnal they are more likely to be vocal at night.
  • The first full moon after the autumnal equinox is called the Harvest Moon because many crops ripen during the late summer/early fall. Before electricity, farmers would tend to their crops by the light of this full moon.
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