Total lunar eclipses on average come about once a year; however, from Sunday night, Jan. 20, through Monday morning, Jan. 21, both the North and South American continents will get the see the sun, Earth, and moon line up perfectly to show the entirety of the eclipse for the first time in nearly two decades. This special event also just happens to coincide with the January 2019 supermoon, which is now being called a Super Blood Wolf Moon.
Assuming good weather conditions, the lunar eclipse has a potential viewing audience of billions.
Here’s what you should know about the 2019 supermoon lunar eclipse Sunday night:
What is a supermoon and lunar eclipse?
A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon darkens as it travels through Earth’s shadow. Earth orbits the sun at a distance of about 93 million miles, while the moon is about 239,000 miles away from Earth. On January 20-21, the moon will be at its closest point to Earth, otherwise known as perigee. The Earth’s shadow is three times as large as the moon at that time.
The moon on January 20 will also be a supermoon. A supermoon means the moon appears larger in the sky due to the full moon being at its closest approach to Earth.
Why is this total lunar eclipse special?
The January 2019 lunar eclipse will show the penumbral, partial, and total stages and will be viewable by the Americas for the first time in 19 years. This won’t happen again until 2058.
Usually, the Moon’s alignment only allows for a penumbral eclipse or a partial eclipse. When the right alignment happens, the penumbral eclipse leads to a partial eclipse, which becomes a total eclipse, showing the brightest stars and planets in just about 62 minutes.
Why is it called a “Super Blood Wolf Moon?”
Native Americans and colonial Europeans called January’s full moon the wolf moon because wolves in the region would start howling due to hunger in winter, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
On a more modern note, National Geographic explains that this lunar eclipse corresponds with the wolf moon which is the traditional name for January’s full moon.
During a total lunar eclipse, the Earth blocks the light from the sun, giving the moon’s surface a red glow, which many refer to as a Blood Moon.
The moon on January 20 will be closer to the Earth than usual, making it bigger and brighter, making it a supermoon. This event also starts a triad of 2019 supermoons with the next ones arriving on February 19 and March 21.
Where can the lunar eclipse be seen and when?
The eclipse will be visible to North and South America. To see if the eclipse is visible in your area, go to TimeandDate.com.
The penumbral eclipse starts at 9:36 p.m. E.T. on January 20, according to the site. The Earth’s shadow starts moving over the Moon and not easily seen to the naked eye. The eclipse peaks at 12:12 a.m., and the penumbral eclipse ends at 2:48 a.m. The total viewing is about 5 hours and 12 minutes. You can also watch the lunar eclipse online. TimeandDate.com will live stream the event.
Is it safe to look at the lunar eclipse with the naked eye?
The lunar eclipse is safe to watch without special glasses (unlike the August 2017 eclipse) because the moon is in the Earth’s shadow during the eclipse, meaning there’s less light coming from it.