Schaffer: Perfect eclipse gives us ‘Super Blood Wolf Moon’

Dane Schaffer, Minot State assistant professor in science education

MINOT, N.D. – Sunday’s lunar phenomenon has quite the full name.

The total lunar eclipse will also be a supermoon, a blood moon, and the wolf moon, according to Dane Schaffer, Minot State assistant professor in science education.

“This one happens to be perfect,” she said. “The moon doesn’t revolve around the equator, so sometimes it’s a little up or down. This one happens to be a little closer, it’s at perigee, so that’s why it’s called a supermoon. And, the sun’s rays casting a shadow with the earth’s natural pollutants, will give it a red hue, so that’s why it’s called a blood moon.”

This will be the first of three supermoons in 2019 with Sunday’s orbit bringing the moon about 222,000 miles from Earth. February’s full moon will be slightly closer to Earth and March will see the moon slightly farther away. The next lunar eclipse isn’t until May 2021.

As for the wolf moon name, Native Americans and medieval Europeans named the first full moon in January after howling wolves.

“Within the calendar, we have different names for each full moon,” Schaffer said. “There is the strawberry moon in June and there is a beaver moon (November).”

The duration of Sunday’s eclipse and its timing in the evening should make for an interesting viewing event.

“The moon should be in totality (when the Earth’s shadow completely blankets the moon) for about 60 minutes,” Schaffer said. “The full moon should be viewable around 5:30 p.m. and will get a little fuzzy around 8:30. At 9:30, there will be a ‘chunking out’ effect, like Pac Man. It will be in totality from about 10:42 to 11:45 and then goes back out. It will be completely done about 1:40 a.m. (Monday).”

While viewing solar eclipses requires special glasses and comes with warnings on looking at the eclipse directly, the lunar eclipse doesn’t have the same hazards. The supermoon does cause some issues with high tides in coastal areas.

“You can view it without anything special,” Schaffer said. “My only suggestion is to dress warmly, because it is supposed to be below zero. There are certain places, like Miami, that are dealing with higher tides with higher water levels in the Atlantic, and with the moon being in line with the Earth and the sun, we call that synergy, they will experience higher tides.

“But for us, my advice is to dress warm and have some hot chocolate.”

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Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 01/17/19   

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