By Shannon Frost Greenstein
So, that was a lot of information, right there in the title.
Let’s flesh it out a bit, just so we’re all sure we’ve got the facts straight.
First, the obvious. A blue moon is not actually blue. I know, I know, false advertising. A blue moon is actually the second full moon in a single month. Based on the lunar cycle, this obviously doesn’t happen very often…hence the popular cliche, “Once in a blue moon.”
So, there’s the blue moon part. But what makes it a total lunar eclipse?
A lunar eclipse is when the Earth’s shadow blocks the sun’s light, which otherwise reflects off the moon. A total lunar eclipse, then, means that Earth’s shadow completely covers the moon, making it appear as if the moon is progressively disappearing.
So, we’ve got the lunar part, and we’ve got the total eclipse part, and we’ve got the blue moon part. What’s left?
Well, it’s approaching. It’s coming. On January 31st, like Audrey II in “Little Shop of Horrors”, it’s coming, and it’s the first eclipse of 2018. But…some bad news.
We here on the East Coast will not get to see ANY of it.
I know. I’m upset, too.
Along the U.S. Atlantic Seaboard, the moon will have only just begun to enter the darkest part of Earth’s shadow at 6:48 a.m. EST when it will disappear from view below the west-northwest horizon. We are in exactly the opposite position to catch the moment of totality, and only those earlybirds up before the sun will catch the very beginning.
But why is this exciting?
This is the first total lunar blue moon eclipse in over 150 years. It’s an auspicious occasion, and you astronomers-in-training should mark this day, because who knows how much longer we’ll have to wait for another one?
While we may not get to see any of the heavens’ wonder this time around, there’s sure to be pictures flooding the internet and news stories galore, so make sure you pay attention on the 31st! Who knows? You might get an Audrey II yourself!