Super blue blood moon: How to watch and stream the January blue moon and lunar eclipse in the UK
Stargazers have been spoilt in recent weeks. At the start of December, many were treated to a stunning supermoon – the only supermoon of 2017 – and overnight we’ll be treated to a so-called “lunar trifecta” – a pre-dawn “super blue blood moon.”
The event, which is the first of its kind to be seen in the Western Hemisphere for 150 years, sees a blue moon coincide with a supermoon AND a lunar eclipse. It will make the full moon appear even larger than normal and the eclipse will cause the moon to glow blood red.
READ NEXT: Stunning pictures of the 2017 supermoon
The super blue blood moon will be visible on 31 January and will appear most prominently in western North America, Alaska, and the Hawaiian islands in the early hours of the morning. For those in other regions, the Middle East, Asia, eastern Russia, Australia and New Zealand, the super blue blood moon will be visible during moonrise in the morning on the 31st. In the UK, the moon will rise at around 17:00 and will remain visible until 08:00 the following morning. It will be highest in the sky from 19:00 until 00:40 which will be when viewing is optimal.
Below we explain when and where you can see the super blue blood moon in the UK. Scroll down further to learn more about the science of the super blue blood moon, supermoons, the blue moon and how to take photos of the super blue blood moon.
When and where to see the super blue blood moon in the UK
Those of us in the UK won’t see the super blue blood moon at its fullest or brightest, sadly, but the moon will still appear larger than normal. We also won’t be treated to the lunar eclipse either; that sight awaits those in North Amercia, Alaska and Hawaii just before sunrise on 31 January.
You will still be able to watch the super blue blood moon in the UK online, thanks to a live stream on NASA TV, NASA.gov/live as well as the NASA TV channel on uStream. The super blue blood moon live stream will start on Wednesday January 31 at 5.30am ET (10.30am GMT). Weather permitting, NASA said it will show various views from vantage points at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Centre in California, the Griffith Observatory in LA; and the University of Arizona’s Mt. Lemmon SkyCentre Observatory.
Click the image below to watch the live stream of the super blue blood moon
The Jan. 31 full moon is special for three reasons: it’s the third in a series of “supermoons,” when the Moon is closer to Earth in its orbit — known as perigee — and about 14 percent brighter than usual. It’s also the second full moon of the month, commonly known as a “blue moon.” If you live in North America, Alaska, or Hawaii, a lunar eclipse will be visible before sunrise on Jan. 31. For those in the Middle East, Asia, eastern Russia, Australia and New Zealand, the “super blue blood moon” can be seen during moonrise in the morning on the 31st.
Plus you can follow the eclipse on @NASAMoon. You can also watch a NASA ScienceCast video, A Supermoon Trilogy about the Dec. 3, 2017, Jan. 1, 2018, and Jan. 31, 2018 supermoons below.
“Weather permitting, the West Coast, Alaska and Hawaii will have a spectacular view of totality from start to finish,” said NASA. “Unfortunately, eclipse viewing will be more challenging in the Eastern time zone. The eclipse begins at 5:51 AM ET, as the Moon is about to set in the western sky, and the sky is getting lighter in the east.”
For people in New York or Washington, the moon will enter the outer part of Earth’s shadow at 5:51 am, but won’t be all that noticeable. The darker part of Earth’s shadow will begin to blanket part of the moon with a reddish tint at 6:48 am EST, but the moon will set less than a half-hour later. This means your best opportunity to see the event (if you live in the East) is at around 6:45 am.
If you live in the Central time zone, the penumbra – or lighter part of Earth’s shadow – will touch the moon around 4:51 am CST. By 6:15 am CST the Earth’s reddish shadow will be noticeable on the moon. The eclipse will be harder to see in the lightening pre-dawn sky, and the Moon will set after 7:00 a.m. as the Sun rises.
More details about timings across the US can be found on NASA’s super blue blood moon explainer.
After this event, the next lunar eclipse won’t take place until 21 January 2019 and will be a supermoon, not a blue moon.
What is a super blue blood moon?
The January full moon is significant for three reasons, according to NASA.
- It’s the third in a series of “supermoons“, an event when the moon is closer to Earth as it makes its orbit – known as perigee – and about 14% brighter than normal.
- This month’s event is also the second January full moon, known as a “blue moon.”
- Thirdly, the super blue moon will additionally pass through Earth’s shadow to give certain regions a total lunar eclipse. While the moon is in the Earth’s shadow it will take on a reddish tint, known as a “blood moon.” Hence the name super blue blood moon.
What is a supermoon?
The name “supermoon” was coined in 1979 but it’s officially known as a perigean full moon. A full moon occurs around the time the moon is closest to Earth.
Because the moon’s orbit isn’t a perfect circle, but elliptical, the distance between the lunar satellite and Earth varies month-on-month. At its furthest point it’s known as an apogee, while the closest part of the orbit is the perigee.
Typically, a supermoon (when the moon appears massive in the sky, also known as a maximoon) is a moon that’s within 90% of its closest approach to Earth, when the centre of the moon is less than 223,694 miles (360,000 km) from the centre of Earth. By contrast, a micromoon, when the moon appears much smaller in the sky, is when the centre of the moon is further than 251,655 miles (405,000 km) from the centre of Earth.
NASA scientists have studied the moon for decades because a better understanding of our moon helps scientists determine what is happening on other planets and objects in the solar system.
What is a blue moon?
NASA claims that, according to modern folklore, a blue moon is the second full moon in a calendar month. Typically, due to the phases of the moon throughout the year, months only see one full moon. Then, every two and a half years (on average) a second appears in the same calendar month.
Despite its name, however, the term doesn’t relate to the colour of the moon in the majority of cases. Occasionally, there is a “blue moon” in the literal sense, but that only occurs in very specfic atmospheric conditions. These include when volcanic eruptions leave particles in the atmosphere of a certain size to scatter the red light, leaving the moon looking blue.
Why does the moon turn red during a lunar eclipse?
The reason the moon takes on this scarlet hue is due to a process known as Rayleigh scattering. It is the process behind why sunrises and sunsets glow and why the sky is blue.
Light is made up of different colours and those at the red end of the specturm have longer wavelengths and lower frequencies than those nearer the violet end. As sunlight travels through the air, molecules scatter its photons in different directions, each with their own colour and energy.
Because of their shorter wavelengths, blue photons are more widely scattered than greens and reds, for example. This is why the sky appears blue.
The reason the moon looks red during a lunar eclipse is because as the sunlight hits Earth’s atmosphere, those with longer wavelengths are able to travel further distances and are refracted around Earth, hitting the surface of the moon and causing its change of tint.
How to photograph the super blue blood moon
Canon ambassador and landscape photographer, David Noton, has given tips for how to photograph the super blue blood moon.
Use apps to plot the moon’s location
The Photographer’s Ephemeris app gives moonrise and moonset times, bearings and phases; while the Photopills app gives information on the position of the moon in our sky. Both of these will reveal the optimal places to see the super blue blood moon. It’s also worth downloading a weather app to check for cloud cover.
Buy a lens with optimal zoom
Astronomers have super powerful telescopes at their disposal but amateur, as well as photographers, will need to invest in a lens with optimal zoom to take decent photos of the super blue blood moon. As long as you’ve got a long telephoto lens on a full frame DSLR with around 600 mm of focal length, it’s possible.
Use a tripod
Lunar tracking is incredible challenging as the moon moves through the sky, explains Norton, and because you’ll ideally be using a long lens for this shoot, it’s good to invest in a tripod. You can take it by hand, but given the fact the subject is more than 238,000 miles away the slightest of movements could affect the final shot, even with a high shutter speed.
Make the moon part of your landscape
While images of the moon can be detailed, they look far more impressive when captured as part of a wider landscape, to give the image context. Night photography typically long exposures but with many modern cameras, such as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, low light performance is less of an issue.
Master shutter speed
By definition, any scene with a medium or wide-angle view is going to render the moon as a tiny pin prick of light. On a clear night, Norton recommends exposing the image at 1/250 sec @ f8 ISO 100 (depending on focal length) to stop the motion from blurring.
Images: Max Pixel/NASA
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