It may sound like a low-budget horror movie, but thankfully it's something a little more fun.
The first and only lunar eclipse visible here in Michigan in 2019, is set to occur this weekend. The mouthful of a name comes from a number of events that will coincide with one another during the eclipse, which begins at 9:36 PM on Sunday. Here's everything you need to know about the wild name!
The Moon's orbit around Earth is not a perfect circle, much like the rest of the planets orbiting the Sun. As a result, the Moon's distance from Earth varies as it makes its way around. The closest point in its orbit is known as apogee, and the farthest point is known as perigee.
When a full Moon occurs at the same time the Moon is at apogee, it is called a Super Moon. When this occurs, the Moon will appear slightly larger and a bit brighter in the sky. A lunar eclipse can only occur during a full Moon, and this weekend's will just happen to be a Super Moon.
Each full Moon throughout the year is known by a different name; snow, strawberry, harvest, for example. These names originate in Native American culture, and are based on observations the tribes made around the time of each full Moon.
January's full Moon is known as the Wolf Moon. In nature, food becomes more scarce as winter settles in, putting a strain on predatory animals such as wolves. The native tribes noted that around the time of this full Moon, wolves would often be heard howling more frequently, likely due to growing hunger and competition for what little food they could find. This weekend's eclipse just happens to coincide with the Wolf Moon.
This part thankfully is not as ominous as it sounds, but it's a little technical. It's important to note that the Moon does not generate its own light. Instead, it is illuminated by the light of the Sun, much of which is reflected by the Moon's grayish-white surface. A lunar eclipse is the result of the Moon passing through Earth's shadow. Due to the Moon's elliptical (oval-shaped) orbit, it sometimes passes through just a portion of Earth's shadow, and other times it passes through completely.
A complete passage through Earth's shadow results in a total lunar eclipse, meaning that for a brief period, no direct sunlight reaches the Moon. Rather than disappear completely during such an event, the Moon will often take on a red or orange color when it is completely enshrouded. This is actually a visual trick caused by sunlight passing through Earth's atmosphere. Our atmosphere acts like a lens, bending the light passing through it, and also causing it to lose some of its energy.
When light loses energy, it tends to tint toward the red end of the visible spectrum. That lower-energy light leaving our atmosphere is then projected onto the Moon, even while in the shadow of our planet. The result is a red or orange Moon, which many say appears blood red.
All Together Now
This weekend's lunar eclipse will occur during the January Wolf Moon, which will also be a Super Moon positioned at its closest point to Earth, and will turn blood red as it passes through Earth's shadow. A Super Wolf Blood Moon.
See the image below for the full timing of the event, and make sure to dress in layers if you're stepping outside to view it! Skies will clear a bit on Sunday night, but temperatures will plummet into the single-digits, with wind chills below zero! You'll have to stay up a bit later, but it will be worth a look!
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