Gene Zajac, Put-in-Bay’s Village Astronomer, prepares us for another wonderful spectacle in the night sky!
On Wednesday, January 31st, we have our second full moon of January and 2018. It is also a Super Moon, the second time in 2018! It is the first of two Total Lunar eclipses for the year, and the first Blue Moon of 2018–the second Blue Moon of the year comes in March. The most commonly accepted definition of a Blue Moon is “the second full moon in a month.” The saying, “Once in a Blue Moon,” means an infrequent event. February will have no full moon this year.
At 6:51 am, Wednesday (1/31), the full blue moon enters into the darkest part of Earth’s shadow called the umbra. It will be in the Western sky. During a Total Lunar Eclipse the Moon takes on a reddish cast. As the moon sets at 7:44 am, the sun rises. The moon sets with half of its celestial body in the umbra. The farther west you are, the closer you come to totality. Our friends in Hawaii will see the eclipse from start to finish. Thus we have a Red Blue Moon.
A Super Moon is defined as the full moon being near its closest point during its orbit around the Earth. The term comes from an astrologer and not an astronomer. His name is Richard Nolle, and he defined the term (over 30 years ago) as when the Full Moon is within 90% of its closest approach to Earth . Other astronomy organizations have applied their own definitions, but most concur we are having a second Blue Moon. A Super Moon is 14% larger and 30% brighter than a moon at its greatest distance from Earth!
If you get up early enough to see the setting Moon, Jupiter will be high and directly South. It is followed by Mars, then Saturn in the SE with Mercury making its appearance just before the 7:44 am sunrise. I hope it is a clear morning. It would make a great picture from a shanty as one prepares to ice fish!