Supermoons, the recently coined term for the appearance of a larger moon, are becoming more publicized, although they are not actually becoming more frequent. This next supermoon is more unusual however, with the coinciding of a new moon and total lunar eclipse, this next supermoon is something to look forward to.
“A supermoon is basically just a moon that is closer to the earth than normal, so it appears to be larger in the sky” said Paul Ricketts, director of the University of Utah's Physics Observatory. “The one that is coming up is a little more special because of what it’s associated with. So this one is actually going to be a supermoon that is also what’s considered a blue moon, which means it’s just a second full moon during a calendar month, but on top of that, it’s also going to be the same time as a lunar eclipse.
During the eclipse, the moon will appear a reddish color, an effect that is caused by the light scattering through Earth’s atmosphere. Red light scatters more than any other kind of light and will be seen reflecting off of the moon. Weather permitting, residents in Utah will have a unique opportunity to see these celestial happenings which haven’t coincided since March 1866.
“It’s only visible in parts of the world, the east coast will start to see the total eclipse as the eclipse begins but the moon will be setting at that time," Ricketts said. "The further west you go, you’ll actually get to see more until you get about across the Pacific, and then you’ll actually not have the moon up in order to see it… so only about half of the earth will be able to see the actual eclipse”.
Those looking to experience this month’s lunar events are encouraged to look to the skies between 6:00 and 7:00 a.m. on January 31. For a chance to talk with an expert or look through a telescope the Physics Observatory in Salt Lake opens its doors every Wednesday evening to the public.