Super Blue Blood Moon
[Editor’s Note: Alana holds a Master’s degree in Astrophysics from the University of Alabama.]
In the early morning hours of January 31, 2018, much of North America will get the privilege of witnessing a rare celestial event: Super Blue Blood Moon. But what exactly is this trifecta of lunar phenomena? Is it a harbinger of doom or apocalyptic events? Let’s break it down.
Like the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, the Moon travels in an elliptical orbit around the Earth. Because of this, the Moon has a closest approach (perigee) and a farthest approach (appogee) to the Earth. A Supermoon occurs when the Moon reaches its perigee and will therefore, appear up to 16% larger and 30% brighter than usual.1 The January 31st Supermoon is the last in a trio of back-to-back Supermoon Full Moons, the previous occurring on December 3, 2017 and January 2, 2018.
The Moon orbits around the Earth in approximately a 29.5 day cycle. During this cycle, the Moon appears to go through phases: New Moon, Crescent Moon, Quarter Moon, Gibbous Moon, and Full Moon. Occasionally, there will be two Full Moons in a calendar month. The second of these Full Moons is called a Blue Moon.
Image credit: https://mars.nasa.gov/images/Lunar_eclipse_sideview.jpg
A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes through Earth’s shadow, blocking the sunlight on the Moon. One of the first things a spectator of this event might notice is the reddish color the Moon seems to turn. (The red color is caused by the scattering of sunlight through Earth’s atmosphere as the Moon enters Earth’s shadow and reflects only the scattered light.)
Super Blue Blood Moon
On January 31st, the Moon will be in its orbital perigee (Supermoon) at the time of the second full Moon of the month (Blue Moon) and will reach the lunar eclipse maximum in the early morning hours appearing completely awash in a reddish hue (Blood Moon), therefore giving it the name: Super Blue Blood Moon.
While total solar eclipses might be considered more spectacular than lunar eclipses, lunar eclipses are quite impressive, too. While the precise alignment of a solar eclipse means that only those in the narrow path of the shadow can see it, a lunar eclipse can be enjoyed by entire continents of people.
These naturally occurring events are part of the physical laws God put into place when He created the Universe, and are not harbingers of doom. Rather than being characterized by chaos, as though from an explosion, the Universe displays magnificent order, which attests to a Grand Designer. The machine-like behavior of the Universe allows scientists to understand and even predict celestial events long before they occur. The beauty, magnificence, and complexity of such celestial events should fill us with awe toward the Designer of the Universe.