Early risers will be in for a treat the morning of January 31 (weather permitting) when the first lunar eclipse of 2018 will take place. This eclipse is called a “Super Blue Blood Moon” because of the three occurrences that will take place simultaneously. A moon in total eclipse is referred to as a blood moon because of the reddish hue it takes on during the eclipse. A super moons occurs when the moon is at its closest point to Earth in its monthly orbit, appearing larger and brighter than a typical full moon. A blue moon is when dust particles make the moon appear blue. Put all three of these together and you get a “Super Blue Blood Moon.”
This total lunar eclipse will be visible from much of the U.S., northeastern Europe, Russia, Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific, and Australia. However, in Worcester, only a partial lunar eclipse will be visible. So just what does this mean if you’re looking to view as much of the eclipse as possible?
“You have a mere 13 minutes (starting at 6:48 a.m.) to view this partial eclipse,” said QCC Professor of Integrated Sciences, Andria Schwortz. “Sunrise on January 31 is at 7:02 a.m. and the full moon sets at approximately the same time as the sun rises.”
According to Professor Schwortz, Europe and Africa will have a better view of the eclipse, noting that lunar eclipses can be seen from half of the world (anywhere that the moon can be seen) unlike solar eclipses, which can only be seen from a small part of the world.
There are two types of eclipses, lunar and solar. These eclipses are caused by the shadows of the earth and moon and how they line up. A lunar eclipse occurs at full moon and only when the moon passes through the earth’s shadow. A solar eclipse is when the moon passes between the sun and the earth, blocking the light from the sun.
On August 21, 2017 the QCC community experienced an incredible occurrence with the viewing of a solar eclipse. This transcontinental solar eclipse was the first since 1918 and there were areas of the country in totality (complete darkness from the shadow of the moon blocking the sun), making it a very rare occurrence. In Central Massachusetts eclipse viewers were able to only view a partial solar eclipse.
One of the key differences between a lunar and solar eclipse is that you can view a lunar eclipse safely.
“Lunar eclipses are always safe to look at,” said Professor Schwortz. Solar eclipses can never be viewed with the naked eye, nor through an unfiltered telescope or binoculars.
Eclipses happen multiple times a year and depending where you are in the world will determine how often you are able to view one. One of the most impressive total lunar eclipses in modern memory was during the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals World Series. This was the first lunar eclipse to take place during a World Series game and also coincided with the Red Sox winning their first World Series since 1918. While not quite as impressive as that lunar eclipse, the January 31 eclipse is something that shouldn’t be missed.
“For the best viewing you should go outside and look west a little before sunrise. Try and go up on a hill or building so that you can see the horizon,” Professor Schwortz said. “Kids will love to see it!”