A Quick Guide to January's Super Blood Wolf Moon

Word on the street (aka Space.com) has brought to my attention that we will be graced with a Super-Blood-Wolf Moon this month. While ancient civilizations may have quivered in fear of angering the gods, we have the luxury of enjoying it free of worry from divine repercussions. There are three parts to this lunar event, so let's break them down!

1. Super Moon:

A super moon is not uncommon. It is when a full moon occurs at its closest point to earth during its orbit. That point in the orbit is also known as the moon’s perigee. So while they are not rare, super moons still sound pretty cool.

2. Blood Moon:

A blood moon refers to the total lunar eclipse that occurs during this process. During a total lunar eclipse, the sun, moon, and earth aline perfectly. The earth comes between the sun and the moon, and as a result, the sun shines the earth’s shadow onto the moon.

This is actually way cooler than it sounds. At this point, the moon is at the precise distance from earth so that the earth’s shadow can cover it completely.  The moon actually inches away from us a little bit each year (about 4 cm a year). But right now we have the perfect conditions to produce blood moons. So while we have a couple billion more years to enjoy this perfect balance, we can still be grateful for it.

As for the “blood” part; during a total lunar eclipse, the sun’s light is bent and refracted around the earth. This means that sunlight is passing through the Earth’s atmosphere to cast a faint glow, illuminating the full moon. As the light passes through the atmosphere, most colors scatter, but red light is able to make it through. Another factor that creates this “blood” effect is the amount of dust, ash, or pollution in the atmosphere. If there was a recent, large volcanic eruption, this would result in a more brilliant shade of red projected onto the moon.

3. Wolf Moon:

Every month has a specific name for the full moon. These names come from a natural phenomenon that Native Americans and/or Medieval European societies observed during that month. To name a few: March is ‘Worm Moon’, June is ‘Strawberry Moon’, October is ‘Harvest Moon’. January’s ‘Wolf Moon’ was named for the wolves that howled from hunger through mid-winter. The January full moon has also gone by the names of ‘Ice Moon’ and ‘Old Moon’.

When may I view this unique celestial event you ask? Oh boy, have I got news for you (courtesy of Space.com)! On Monday, January 21, the eclipse begins at 7:33 p.m. PST. Totality begins at 8:41 p.m. PST. Totality ends at 9:43 p.m. PST, and the eclipse ends at 10:50 p.m. PST. No special equipment is required to view it ─ so get out there you crazy kids and enjoy that moon!