• Simma Sky: Super Blue Blood Moon

    By: Corey Simma


    JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Super Blue Blood Moon.

    Try saying that five times fast.

    In case you missed it last month, it was truly an incredible sight. On January 31st, we got three unique spectacles by the moon all in one night! 1866 was the last time that happened in North America.

    According to NASA - Asia, Australia, and the Americas experienced a blue moon and total lunar eclipse on December 30, 1982. But that moon wasn’t “super.”

    We'll break down all the variables that had to be just right for the great display to actually happen, but let's look at some pictures first. Below are some of the photos that were captured during the event.

    Meteorologist Arielle Nixon (@NixonFirstAlert) clearly loves the Super Blue Blood Moon on Action News Jax This Morning:

    Thomas Johannes from Riverside took these incredible pictures in San Marco:

    The Super Blue Blood Moon provides a beautiful backdrop for The Statue of Liberty, seen from Brooklyn, New York (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Julio Cortez):

    The Super Blue Blood Moon rises over the Parthenon in Athens, Greece (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Giannakouris):

    This particular moon was super, blue, and blood. Let’s recap what all of those mean.



    A supermoon is a full moon that appears brighter and bigger than a normal moon, but it is more subtle than it actually sounds. As the moon orbits around the earth, and goes through its normal phases, there are points when it is closer than normal to the earth (perigee) and further away than normal (apogee). The difference between perigee and apogee is only about 40,000 km. Only. When the moon is full at its perigee, it appears slightly larger than normal. To be more exact, it can appear up to 14% bigger. Which is a difference hard for the human eye to notice with a mere passing glance.

    Here is a great visual example of the difference: this is a comparison between the December 3rd, 2017 full moon at perigee and the full moon in June 2017 at apogee. Photo credit: Muzamir Mazlan at Telok Kemang Observatory, Port Dickson, Malaysia:

    According to earthsky.org, earth won't witness full-moon supermoons again until January 2019. New-moon supermoons will occur in June, July, and August of 2018. We just won't see them.



    You know the saying, "once in a blue moon..." Whatever it is you're talking about and comparing to a weirdly-colored moon, it doesn't happen that often. A blue moon is the second full moon of the month. Full moons occur about every 29 days. So in order to see a blue moon, you have to get lucky with a full moon on the first day of a month that's 30 or 31 days long. I'll spare you all the boring math (and space.com has a really nice chart to explain it here), but blue moons occur about every 2.7 years. That's not very often. And no, the moon isn't really blue when it occurs.



    There have been many studies done throughout the ages of the effect that the sun and moon have on people. Personally, I didn't see the total solar eclipse of 2017 that bisected the United States, and that was a mistake. Ask anyone who witnessed it in person: they felt something when they watched the moon block out the sun. We know from oral and written history that special astronomical events, including eclipses, had an impact on the way people lived their lives. I visited Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado while on summer family vacation in 2017. The tour guides and information panels there spoke of village dwellers who built pit-houses on hillsides who used the Colorado Plateau for agriculture between 1500 B.C. and A.D 500. Chimney Rock is two bare rocks sticking out of a nearby hill. That's basically it. But when a full moon would pass through the gap between the rocks, or an eclipse occurred between the two rocks, legend says the hill dwellers went crazy. And that's the usual reaction, regardless of people group, location, or time. Watching the moon turn a shade of red instilled fear. It made those watching think an other-worldly being was trying to communicate something. If you don't think eclipses are a big deal, that's fine. I'm not sure how you made it this far on this webpage. Regardless, they had an impact on people, and they have an impact on people.

    Lunar eclipses occur when the earth moves in between the sun and the moon. The earth therefore casts a shadow on the side of the moon facing the sun (image courtesy Sky and Telescope):

    As displayed in the photos at the top of this post, Jacksonville viewed a brownish-red moon.

    Lunar eclipses happen about 2-4 times a year, on average. TOTAL lunar eclipses happen less often. This lunar eclipse with the super and blue attached was partial, but it still turned red for most viewers around the globe. 

    A total lunar eclipse will be visible in Jacksonville and all of North America on January 20th, 2019. We just have to wait a year, and it will be worth it.

    So there you have it! All three of these lunar events came together at the same time. I'm not citing a source when I make this comment, but I think it's safe to say that the odds of all three of these occurring at the same time are astronomical. Get it?

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