What to expect in the night sky this month: Blue moon, blood moo - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

What to expect in the night sky this month: Blue moon, blood moon and supermoon

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) -

Look up at the night sky and you'll see something interesting happening in the first month of 2018.

There will be a blue moon, a blood moon, and supermoon all at the same time. These will all occur on or around the last day of the month.

Not only is this a "triple" show, it's the third supermoon in a row, going back to last December.

What is a supermoon?

A supermoon happens when the moon is full and is at its closest point in its orbit around the earth. The moon's orbit is not circular. It is somewhat elliptical. Thus it goes through a cycle where it is closer and farther away from the earth. These points are called apogee (farthest) and perigee (closest). A supermoon occurs when the moon is at perigee.

So the moon will be close to the earth and it will be full, but where does the "blood" come in to play?

As chance (or orbital mechanics) would have it, there will also be a lunar eclipse on January 31st, when the moon is full. During a lunar eclipse the moon will get darker and acquire a reddish-orange-coppery-type color which some people associate with blood.

Doesn't it seem rather spectacular that all of these will be happening at the same time? It would be spectacular, but celestial events rarely ever line up perfectly, and that will be the case this time around. The exact time when the moon will be closest to the earth (and hence, "super") will be 3:55 a.m. on January 30th. The moon doesn't become exactly "full" until 7:27 a.m. on January 31st (about 15 hours later) and by that time, it will be below the western horizon in Northcentral Wisconsin. In addition, the total eclipse of the moon (the "blood" moon) will be most visible over the Pacific ocean and western U.S.

All is not lost though. If the skies are clear, there will be a very bright moon in the sky all night on January 30th and we will be able to see some of the eclipse in the early morning on January 31st. The best time will be around 5 or 6 a.m. before it starts to get light out. The eclipse will be harder to see as it gets closer to 7 a.m. because the sun rises at 7:19 a.m. on the 31st. However, the moon does not set in Wausau until 7:21 a.m., therefore, you might be able to see a little of the color of the eclipse on the western horizon as you are heading off to work on that Wednesday.

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