The super blood wolf moon is a special kind of total lunar eclipse. If the weather cooperates, viewers in South America and North America will be able to witness the rare event on Sunday night.
The moon will first enter Earth’s shadow at 10:34 p.m. ET. The moon will get darker and redder as it moves into the heart of the shadow, with the total eclipse peaking at 12:12 p.m. ET — the maximum eclipse. The eclipse will last 3.5 hours, with totality lasting 63 minutes.
Total lunar eclipses happen when the sun, Earth and the moon are in alignment and the full moon passes through Earth’s shadow. The moon doesn’t disappear. Instead, it darkens and turns an orangish red.
Light with shorter wavelengths on the blue end of the spectrum, passing along each side of Earth, is scattered by atmospheric particles. Light with longer wavelengths on the red end of the spectrum passes through the atmosphere mostly undisrupted, reflecting off the lunar surface.
If the moon’s orbital plane was aligned with Earth’s orbital plane around the sun, every full moon would bring a total lunar eclipse. That’s not the case.
“Most of the time, the moon’s slightly tilted orbit brings it above or below Earth’s shadow,” according to NASA.
As AccuWeather reports, much of the United States will be plagued by poor weather, harming viewing conditions across the Northeast, Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Viewing conditions in the U.S. will be best across the Southeast.
For viewers thwarted by rain, snow and clouds, several online streams will offer live coverage of the eclipse, including timeanddate.com and Slooh.
All lunar eclipses are blood moons. The moniker refers to the moon’s red tint during the eclipse. The moon is a wolf moon because it is a full moon in January. It is a super moon because the full moon coincides with the satellite’s pedigree, its closest approach to Earth.
Solar and lunar eclipses always come in pairs. Earlier this month, a partial solar eclipse cast lunar shadows across Asia and Alaska.
The next total lunar eclipse won’t occur until May 26, 2021, but several partial solar and lunar eclipses will occur between now and then.