The so-called Blood Moon is one of those celestial events you must not miss, if you have the opportunity to see it. And as lucky we are, on January 31, people in India, and in the western United States and Australia, will be able to witness a full moon that will turn an orangey-red hue as it passes through the Earth’s deep shadow.
To our fortune, this day turns out to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience because it also happens to be a supermoon, and a blue moon. An all-in-one blue moon, supermoon, and total lunar eclipse has not occurred since 1866.
What time will I be able to see it in India?
In India, you will be able to witness the all-in-one blue moon, supermoon and blood moon starting at 6:21PM IST on January 31, 2018, and it will be visible till 7:37PM.
Well that’s great, but what’s a supermoon, blood moon or blue moon?
Now, before you throw your hands in the air, you should know what we are talking about. Supermoon, blood moon and a blue moon are three completely different phenomena that just happen to be occurring simultaneously – and again, that’s what makes the night so special.
A supermoon is when the moon looks slightly larger than normal, but only by a small margin. It happens because the moon’s orbit around Earth is elliptical, so sometimes it is actually closer. When that phenomenon coincides with a full moon, it’s called a supermoon.
Blue moon, on the other hand, is when there are two full moons within one calendar month, but it happens rarely. Remember the saying, “once is a blue moon”?
And a blood moon is more accurately known as a total lunar eclipse. Earth is always projecting a huge shadow into space, but the moon only sometimes passes through it. That can only happen during a full moon, when the Earth is aligned between the sun and moon.
The spectacle begins with what’s called a penumbral eclipse, as the moon crosses into the Earth’s lighter shadow and causes it to lose its usual brightness. About an hour later, the moon enters enters the darkest part of Earth’s shadow (also called umbra), and begins to turn orange or pink on its edge.
About 40 minutes later, the whole of the moon is within the umbra, also called totality. Unlike during a total solar eclipse, lunar totality lasts for about 40 minutes, during which time the moon is closest to the center of the Earth’s shadow. The physics is the same as for a sunset: sunlight is being bent through the Earth’s atmosphere before it hits the moon. The exact color depends on Earth’s atmosphere, which filters different color spectrums. If there has been any volcanic activity, for example, and there’s ash in the atmosphere, a ‘blood’ moon can result.
Once totality is over, the process reverses, with all color receding as the moon leaves Earth’s shadow and returns to full brightness.