Super Moon / Blue Moon / Blood Moon – Trifecta!
Photographers, sharpen your F-stop and tune up your long lens, as a trifecta of celestial events take place on January 31, 2018. Those of us in North America will have the unique opportunity to experience a rare viewing the Earth’s moon as a blue moon, a super moon, and experience a total lunar eclipse (blood moon).
A blue moon occurs when there is more than one full moon in a given month. Indeed, the January 31 full moon will be the second full moon in the month of January 2018. And, it will be the only blue moon of 2018. The last blue moon was May 2016. After this month, the next blue moon will take place in March 2018. While not a rare occasion, a blue moon only happens … well, once in a blue moon. See the list of future blue moon dates.
2018 – March 1, 2018 / March 31, 2018
2020 – October 2, 2020 / October 31, 2020
2023 – August 1, 2013 / August 31, 2023
The orbit of the moon around Earth is not a perfect circle. Instead, it is an elliptical orbit where the moon varies in distance from the Earth during its 27 day orbit. At its perigee, the moon is closest to Earth and appears 14-30% larger than the moon typically appears. Conversely, at its apogee, the moon is furthest from Earth during a given orbital cycle. For a super moon to occur, the moon must be at its perigee and must be a full moon. Though a super moon can occur either during a full moon or new moon. For the purposes of this article, a super moon is a full moon at its perigee.
While the moon does not occur differently to most people, it is best noticed when the moon is closest to the horizon. Therefore, photographic opportunities of the super moon are best at moon rise or moon set. For those following the super moon, the closest super moon in over 60 years occurred on November 14, 2016. After January 31, 2017, the next several super moons will take place the following dates.
- 2019 – January 21
- 2019 – February 19
- 2020 – March 9
- 2020 – April 8
A total lunar eclipse occurs when the shadow of the Earth completely blocks the light of the sun. Viewing an eclipse was especially heightened during the popularity in the United States as the total solar eclipse of 2017. But, what about a lunar eclipse. For starters, those of us in the United States will be able to view a full lunar eclipse on January 31, 2018.
The phenomena of a blood moon occurs during a total lunar eclipse as the moon continues to be visible at lunar totality but has a reddish brown appearance. Without going into an expose about the wave-length of light and light bending (which this author does not intimately follow), the short of it all is that the light remaining during a total solar eclipse is absent of blues and greens. What remains are reds and oranges leaving the appearance of what some call, a blood moon. After January 31, the next lunar eclipse visible from the United States will be as follows:
- 2019 – January 19
January 31, 2018
Plan your viewing and photographic trip early and plan to catch a rare lunar event on January 31, 2018 as those in the United States experience a super moon, full moon, and lunar eclipse (or blood moon). And most importantly, share photos for the world to see!