A total lunar eclipse will turn the moon red on Sunday night. Here’s what you need to know about this astronomical event.
Mark your calendars: On Sunday, January 20, a “Super Blood Wolf Moon” is happening and will be visible from both North and South America (if the weather cooperates where you live). Here’s everything you need to know about this rare astronomical event and where you should travel to see it.
What does “Super Blood Wolf Moon” mean?
It’s quite a mouthful, but all those names essentially refer to two different lunar events—a total lunar eclipse and a super moon—happening at the same time. The “blood” part comes from the total lunar eclipse (the only one happening in 2019, by the way). As Earth passes directly between the sun and the moon, Earth casts its shadow on the moon’s surface, turning it a deep blood-red color during the length of the eclipse.
The “super” part comes from the fact that the moon will appear larger in the sky on Sunday night because it will be at its closest distance to Earth—just 222,274 miles away—during its orbit. The last part of the name comes from the Wolf Moon, the nickname some American Indian groups give the full moon in January, according to Farmers’ Almanac, because wolves would howl hungrily outside villages during this time of winter.
Where can you see it?
If the weather is clear, anyone in North America and South America and parts of western Europe and Africa should be able to see the Super Blood Wolf Moon on Sunday night. Totality—or when the moon will turn completely red—will begin on Sunday, January 20 at 11:41 p.m. EST and last until 12:43 a.m. EST on Monday, January 21, according to Space.com. Unlike solar eclipses, you can view lunar eclipses safely with the naked eye.
However, due to Winter Storm Harper, people in the northeast from Washington, D.C. up through Canada might be looking at snow instead on Sunday night. Rain and cloudy weather could also affect views in the western half of the country.
According to Accuweather, those living in the southern parts of the United States will have the best chance of seeing the eclipse this weekend. Clear weather is expected on Sunday night from Texas up to Kentucky and over to the South Carolina coast, so if you wanted to take a last-minute trip down south for the long weekend, this is another reason to go.
If you were thinking about heading even further south, the eclipse can also be seen throughout Central and South America. But on Thursday, January 17, the Accuweather forecasts predict that there will only be clear weather for viewing in Paraguay and Uruguay, as well as parts of Chile, Argentina, and Brazil.
When will the next super moon or total lunar eclipse happen?
Super moons and total lunar eclipses only coincide about 20 times per century, Harvard University astronomy educator Patricia Udomprasert told the Wall Street Journal. But these celestial events do happen more often separately. In fact, there are several more super moons this year, starting with February 19 and March 21, 2019. However, if you want to see another total lunar eclipse, you’ll have to wait a lot longer for the next one, which doesn’t occur until May 26, 2021.