It’s an astronomical treat we only get to see once every couple years or so…a total lunar eclipse. If the skies clear in time after the weekend storm, we’ll be able to see the “Super Blood Wolf Moon.” We’ll explain how this eclipse got this name.
Sunday night, the Moon will be entering into Earth’s shadow. A shadow consists of two parts, the penumbra and the umbra. The umbra is the darkest part of the shadow.
The most visible part of the eclipse will begin at 10:33 p.m., when the moon begins to enter into Earth’s umbra, the darkest part of Earth’s shadow.
“The moon will start fading,” Ian Dell’Antonio, a physics professor at Brown University said. “You’ll go through the phases of the moon. And at totality, the moon will fade and become very reddish in color.”
From 10:33-11:41 p.m., a shadow will begin to cross the face of the moon until totality is reached at 11:41 p.m. At that time, the Moon will begin to take on that reddish color…the blood red moon.
So why does the moon take on a reddish color?
It’s for the same reason our sunrises and sunsets are red and orange. It’s due to the atmosphere scattering light like a prism.
We see the longer wavelengths of reds and oranges during sunsets and sunrises, while the other colors are bent away from our eyes.
During an eclipse, the Earth’s atmopshere scatters the sunlight and bends the oranges and reds toward the moon, giving it that reddish color.
The blood red moon will continue past midnight with a maximum eclipse at 12:12 a.m., coming to an end at 12:43 a.m.
What’s so “Super” about it?
Surely you’ve heard the term ‘super moon’ in recent years.
According to Dell’Antonio, the term has to do with the slightly larger appearance of the Moon in the sky due to its proximity to Earth.
On Sunday, the Moon will be 222,043 miles from Earth, the third closest moon of 2019.
The total eclipse ends at 12:43 a.m., then you’ll see the edge of the shadow moving across the moon during another partial eclipse.
The partial eclipse ends at 1:50 a.m., so it’s a pretty long show… a little more than three hours.
Why a Wolf Moon?
The Native Americans gave names to each of the full moons through the year. Different tribes gave different names to each moon, but many called the January moon the “Wolf Moon” because of the howling which hungry wolves made during the middle of winter when food sources were scarce.
It is 100% safe to look at a lunar eclipse with the naked eye (unlike a total solar eclipse which can harm your eyes).
You don’t need binoculars or a telescope, but you’ll be able to see the various features on the moon with binoculars or a scope.
Bundle up if you’re headed out to see the eclipse! Wind chills could be well-below zero late Sunday night and early Monday morning. Of course we’ll need the skies to clear after the weekend storm.
“The next one here in Providence won’t happen until March 2025…so that makes it important — that if it’s clear, you might want to check this one out,” Dell’Antonio said.
-Meteorologist T.J. Del Santo