by Andrea Brassfield

Mother Nature did not cooperate with Northeast Missouri last fall, Monday, August 21st, when clouds moved in, hiding the Total Solar Eclipse that was predicted to be “one of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights”.  However, weather permitting; sky watchers are being given another opportunity to witness a rare astronomical event.

This phenomenon known as “Super Blue Blood Moon” will occur later this month as the pre-dawn sky will feature a Supermoon, a Blue Moon, and a Total Lunar Eclipse, also known as a Blood Moon.  All three events will occur Wednesday, January 31st.

The most common of the three, a Supermoon, happens when a full moon is near the moon’s closest approach to Earth.  The best time to enjoy a Supermoon is just after the moon rises, when it is closest to the horizon, and when the moon sets.

The Blue Moon, also a type of full moon, doesn’t quite fit in with the months in the calendar.  One way of calculating a Blue Moon is, in an astronomical season with four full moons, the Blue Moon is the third full moon.  The other way to calculate the Blue Moon is, when there are two full moons in a month, the Blue Moon is the second full moon. The bluish tint sometimes associated with this moon is caused by a rare type of dust in the atmosphere which can happen after a dust storm, a forest fire, or a volcanic eruption.  However, on January 31st, experts say this particular Blue Moon will likely look red because it will cause a Total Lunar Eclipse, also known as a Blood Moon.

Lunar eclipses occur when Earth’s shadow blocks the sun’s light, which otherwise reflects off the moon.  There are three types of eclipses; total, partial and penumbral.  The Total Lunar Eclipse is the most dramatic and occurs when the Earth’s shadow completely covers the moon.

NASA keeps a list predicting lunar eclipses until 2100.  Three Total Lunar Eclipses are predicted in the next year, with only two (January 31, 2018 and January 19, 2019) predicted to be visible from North America.  Also, unlike solar eclipses, which can only be seen along a roughly 50-mile wide path, each lunar eclipse is visible from over half the Earth.

Another difference between solar and lunar eclipses is the way they are viewed.  No special telescopes or special equipment is needed for a lunar eclipse, simply go out, look to the sky, and enjoy!

Currently, experts predict the best viewing time for this month’s Total Lunar Eclipse in Northeast Missouri will be Wednesday morning, as the moon begins to set on the horizon, starting at 5:48 a.m. The maximum part of the eclipse will best be viewed around 6:51 a.m., Wednesday, January 31st.