Monday, January 21, 2019

Super Blood Wolf Moon: Skygazers Witness Unusual Lunar Eclipse

Total lunar eclipse seen on January 21 over Mojacar, Spain. Credit:Trevor Perry

Stargazers have battled sub-freezing temperatures to catch a glimpse of a lunar extravaganza known as a super blood wolf moon. Millions of people on five continents watched as the supermoon passed through the shadow of our planet, turning the gray lunar disk coppery-red. The eclipse began at 02:35 GMT on Monday and ended at 07:49 GMT, but the point of greatest eclipse occurred at 05:12 GMT.

The best viewing of the one-hour total eclipse was from North and South America, with as many as 2.8 billion people able to see it from the Western Hemisphere, Europe, West Africa and northernmost Russia.

The rare celestial event takes places when the moon is positioned slightly closer to the Earth than normal, and appears slightly bigger and brighter than normal – a phenomenon called a super moon. During the total eclipse, the moon was expected to give off a coppery red glow on the lunar surface as it slips into Earth’s shadow, known as a blood moon.

Since it appears in January, when wolves used to howl in hunger outside villages, it earned the name wolf moon, according to The Farmers Almanac.

Astronomers and skygazers were particularly interested in this year’s blood moon, as it was the last of its kind for two years.

The entire eclipse was expected to exceed three hours. Totality – when the moon is completely bathed in Earth’s shadow – was due to last an hour.

But in the US, many lunar eclipse festivities were cancelled due to a flash freeze across the central and northeastern states, with icy roadways rather than cloudy skies blamed by astronomers for spoiling the party.

In Los Angeles, where the weather was markedly warmer and skies cleared just in time, skywatchers were treated to a full spectacle of the Earth casting its shadow over the moon’s face.

Astronomy buffs were urged to watch the eclipse livestreamed online at sites such as AstronomersWithoutBorders.org.

It seemed days earlier that cloudy skies would be the biggest threat to the cosmic fun, but it turned out a wet, wide-ranging snowstorm followed by a deep freeze on Sunday made driving and outdoor activities too hazardous.

Eclipse parties were canceled from Indiana’s Lemon Lake County Park to New Jersey’s Rowan University.

The next total lunar eclipse is expected in two years, May 26, 2021.

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