Super blue blood moon to be seen on CSU’s campus Wednesday

Julia Trowbridge

Red moon with lens flare
A total lunar eclipse from December 2010, as captured by Adam Pearlstein, the asistant coordinator for the Little Shop of Physics. (Photo courtesy of Adam Pearlstein)

This blood moon has not happened in over 150 years.

What is being commonly referred to as the “super blue blood moon eclipse” will have three different astronomical phenomena happening at once: a super moon, a blue moon and a total lunar eclipse.

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Beginning at 3:51 a.m. on Jan. 31, the second full moon of the month will be 30 percent brighter than normal and will be a red-orange color.

“I had to dangle extra credit to get my students to see the lunar eclipse,” said Heather Michalak, an astronomy teacher at Colorado State University. “Then the students get there and see the moon for the first time during the lunar eclipse and their mind is so blown.”

A total lunar eclipse happens when the sun, earth and moon are exactly in line with each other. The light from the sun goes directly over the earth and around the earth, the shadow cast past the earth consists of a fuzzy, lighter shadow called the penumbra, and a shadow devoid of all light called the umbra. 

“When the object is close to the light source, (the light) acts as a point source, giving a partial shadow,” said Adam Pearlstein, the assistant coordinator for the Little Shop of Physics. “The penumbra is not completely dark, but somewhat darkened.” 

When the moon is in the umbra shadow, the moon is in a total lunar eclipse. During a total lunar eclipse, the only light on the moon comes from the earth’s atmosphere, which means that only colors of light with longer wavelengths, like red and orange, can be seen on the moon. Because of the total lunar eclipse’s color, the phenomenon is often called a “blood moon.”

A blue moon happens when there are two full moons with in the same month. In January 2018, there was a full moon on the 1st and the second blue moon is taking place at the same time as the lunar eclipse. A blue moon on average happens once every 2.7 years.

“If you’ve heard the phrase ‘once in a blue moon,’ this is where the saying comes from,” Michalak said.

A supermoon is when the moon is closer to the earth than normal and will appear 30 percent brighter and 14 percent larger compared to a normal sized moon. This happens because the moon’s orbit around the earth is an elliptical shape rather than an exact circle.

“If you hold your pinky finger at arm’s length, it represents a one degree arc in the sky,” Michalak said. “From horizon to horizon, there’s 180 degrees, so it’s difficult to tell that the moon is bigger using just your finger.”

The best way to view this triple astronomical phenomena is with a telescope. The Little Shop of Physics will be hosting a total lunar eclipse party at 5:30 a.m. in the Lory Student Center west lawn. The LSOP will have telescopes for better viewing the super blue blood moon, and students will be able to take photos of the moon with their phones. 

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“We have this event to share it with other people,” Michalak said. “It’s exciting to geek out with a bunch of other geeks who like astronomy too.”

“We have this event to share it with other people. It’s exciting to geek out with a bunch of other geeks who like astronomy too.” -Heather Michalak, an astronomy teacher at Colorado State University

For Michalak, it is not that she expects most people to want to get up and be on campus at 5:30 a.m., but she wants people to be aware that this astronomical phenomena is happening for some to simply peek out their window and see.

“The big thing for me is for people to just get up and be aware of it,” Michalak said. “Get up, see it, give feedback on social media. If someone posted that they didn’t know this was happening, but now they do because of Little Shop, that’s good enough for me.”

Lunar Eclipse stages

  • Eclipse begins (moon enters penumbra) at 3:51 a.m.
  • Partial eclipse begins (moon enters umbra) at 4:48 a.m.
  • Full eclipse begins (moon fully in umbra) at 5:51 a.m.
  • Moonset while moon fully eclipsed at 7:13 a.m.

LSOP Total Lunar Eclipse Party

  • When: 5:30 a.m. to 7:13 a.m. on Jan. 31
  • Where: Lory Student Center West Lawn

Collegian reporter Julia Trowbridge can be reached at news@collegian.com or on twitter @chapin_jules.