The beginning of 2019 will be marked with a Super Blood Wolf Moon, a rare phenomenon that will see a supermoon coincide with a total lunar eclipse.
The event will begin late Jan. 20, Sunday, and end in the early hours of Jan. 21, Monday. The Super Blood Wolf Moon will be visible in North and South America and Western Europe — if the weather permits.
What Happens During A Super Blood Wolf Moon
While it sounds rather menacing, a Super Blood Wolf Moon is actually a perfectly normal occurrence. It got its name from two astronomical events: a supermoon and a lunar eclipse.
A supermoon occurs when the full moon is at its closest point of orbit (perigee), making it appear larger and brighter than normal. According to NASA, during a supermoon event, the moon is 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than when the moon is at the farthest point of its orbit (apogee).
This month's supermoon will only be the first of the three in 2019. The next supermoon will happen on Feb. 19 while the third will take place on Mar. 21.
The first full moon of the year is also often referred to as the Wolf Moon. It is also sometimes called Old Moon, Ice Moon, and Snow Moon although some cultures attribute this name to a February full moon. The Old Farmer's Almanac explains that during the early Colonial times, wolves howled during the Full Wolf Moon.
As for the Blood Moon, expect to see the moon bathed in red. During a lunar eclipse, the sun, Earth, and the moon line up in space. While the moon will directly be in Earth's shadow, some indirect sunlight will still get to the moon, passing through the atmosphere which filters the blue light. When this happens, the moon turns into a reddish copper color.
How To Watch The January 2019 Super Blood Wolf Moon
This month's total lunar eclipse will be the last for a while. The next total lunar eclipse will not happen until May 26, 2022.
Skywatchers are advised to look up at 9:36 p.m. on Jan. 20 to see the "little notch is sort of taken out of the moon" as it passes through the Earth's shadow. The full eclipse begins at 12:12 a.m. on Jan. 21 and, that is when the moon will appear to be in a reddish copper color. The full eclipse ends at 12:43 a.m.
During the event, Brian Murphy from the Holcomb Observatory & Planetarium said that the stars will also become brighter and more visible.
Unlike a total solar eclipse, people do not need a special device to witness the spectacular event. They simply need to look up to see the rare Super Blood Wolf Moon.