A super moon, blue moon, blood moon and lunar eclipse walk into a bar
“Super Blue Blood Moon: Total Lunar Eclipse” sounds like the sequel to a movie about a raging blue werewolf, but it’s not. It is an actual phenomenon that took place in the early morning hours of January 31.
The somewhat over the top name comes from the rare combination of four different lunar events: a supermoon, a blue moon, a blood moon and a total lunar eclipse. This was the first time all of these have occurred on the same night since 1866.
A supermoon happens when the full moon coincides with the moon’s closest approach to Earth in its orbit, and as a result the moon appears brighter and larger than normal.
If the term sounds new to you, you’re not the only one. While these moons have been identified as “supermoons” for about 40 years, they’ve only recently been getting a lot of attention. In late 2016 three supermoons occurred in a row, with November 2016’s being the closest supermoon in nearly 70 years.
You’ve more than likely heard the saying “once in a blue moon,” and just assumed it meant once in a while. Well, it’s actually less than that. A “blue moon” is the rare occurrence when there is a second full moon in a single calendar month.
There’s an older definition that says a blue moon is the third or fourth full moon in a season, but the monthly definition is easier to definitively track, so it’s become more popular in recent years.
A total lunar eclipse can only happen during a full moon. When the Earth, moon and sun are all aligned, the shadow of the earth blocks the sun’s rays from reaching the moon, casting it in a shadow that gradually moves across the moon as it orbits the Earth and the Earth orbits the sun.
Finally, a blood moon occurs when, during a full lunar eclipse, when most of the sun’s rays are blocked by the Earth, a few rays slip through the Earth’s atmosphere and illuminate the moon, giving it a red hue.
It could also be the beginning of the fulfillment of a biblical prophecy, but let’s worry about that when the four horsemen show up.
For the best views of the quadruple-y special moon, you would’ve had to have been on the West Coast of the U.S., or in the Middle East, Asia, eastern Russia, Australia, or New Zealand.
Luckily, for those of us who missed it, there are some fantastic pictures that look like they belong in a Star Wars movie.
Julia Stevens, a senior, studies English and education. She is a copy editor for Le Provocateur.