Blue moon visible in Washington early Wednesday

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL


In a rare event, Washington County residents will have the opportunity to view a rare confluence of celestial events that has created what NASA officials refer to as a ?super blue blood moon? in the skies over North America early Wednesday.

For the first time in over 150 years, the lunar trifecta will occur in a position the moon can be viewed by people in North America. To that end, Washington County naturalist Pam Holz gave a presentation Saturday on the event, discussing the relation of the sun, moon and earth?s relationships cause what people see in the sky and what was so special about the super blue blood moon.

?Super moon means the moon is at its closest approach to Earth,? Holz explained. ?Blue moon means it?s the second moon of the month and blood means it is a luner eclipse.?

Holz said in Washington the event can be viewed in Washington County shortly before sunrise. She said the main part of the eclipse is expected to start at about 5:50 a.m. and the total eclipse is expected shortly before 7 a.m. She said Washington County will only be able to see a few minutes of the event before the moon sets. Holz said the Midwest is on the very edge of seeing the eclipse and that the east coast won?t be able to see it at all.

She said no special equipment is needed, but she recommended stargazers go somewhere the western horizon is visible. She said no special events have been planned at Marr Park, as the park is not the optimal spot to view the event.

Supermoons, which have most recently occurred on December 32017 and January 1, 2018, are full moons that happen to occur when the Earth and the moon are at or near the closest positions in their orbit (an event called a ?perigee?), making the moon appear about 14 percent larger and up to 30 percent brighter.

Every two and a half years on average, two full moons appear in the same calendar month. Despite the fact that this phenomenon changes nothing about the moon?s physical appearance, the second moon is sometimes referred to as a ?blue moon.? Since January 1 was also a full moon, that will make the super moon on January 31, 2018 both a blue moon and a super moon.

Capping all of these coincidences is the fact that Wednesday?s super blue moon also will occur during a total lunar eclipse. Lunar eclipses occur when Earth passes in between the sun and the moon, casting a shadow on the moon, causing what?s referred to as a ?blood moon? when the moon is full.

Unlike a blue moon, a blood moon actually does alter the color of the moon to a moody red; without the reflection of direct sunlight we usually see on the Moon, the only light that reflects back to us are the distorted reds that have passed through Earth?s atmosphere.

Holz also said that NASA would be streaming the event.