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Everything You Need to Know About January’s Super Blue Blood Moon

super blue blood moon
Photo by Doug Walters
Fact: At every Super Bowl party, there’s at least one attendee who’s only there for the commercials and the seven-layer dip. If you’re among those who only watch football socially, allow us to direct your attention to another upcoming “super” event that may interest you far more than the gridiron action: the super blue blood moon.

Try not to let this imposing moniker evoke visions of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. It’s merely the confluence of several different lunar phenomena in one crazy night.

On January 31, the regularly scheduled full moon will be the third in a string of recent “super moons,” where the moon is closer to earth in its orbit; this will make it about 14 percent brighter than usual. It will also be the second full moon of the month, which designates it as a “blue moon.” This also coincides with a lunar eclipse; the moon will pass through Earth’s shadow, which will cast a reddish tint on it and make it a “blood moon.”

While everyone else is laying in supplies of cocktail wienies and hot cheese dip for game day, this celestial extravaganza might be better suited to a stash of your best psychedelics and some Pink Floyd. Or, you know, whatever turns you on.

ScienceCasts: A Supermoon Trilogy

Since it’s a lunar eclipse, there’s no need for special viewing equipment. However, to see as much of the eclipse as possible, you’ll want to be near a flat western horizon. In the U.S., those on Eastern Standard Time will be the first to see the eclipse. The moon will enter Earth’s penumbra (the lighter, outer part of its shadow) at 5:51 a.m. on January 31, growing darker and more red until 6:48 a.m. As the eclipse nears totality, it will be better seen at points farther west. The total phase will start in California at 4:51 a.m. Pacific Standard Time and end at 6:07 a.m., with the moon emerging from the shadow at 7:11 a.m. (You can find your best time for viewing the eclipse courtesy of NASA.)

In case it needs to be said, this lunar episode is not something likely to happen again while you’re alive. The last super blue blood moon occurred more than 150 years ago, making it arguably more exceptional than Tom Brady’s quarterbacking skills. (Though we wouldn’t recommend arguing the point with your sports fan friends.)

You can watch the Patriots win a Super Bowl game any year, but this super blue blood moon is a once-in-a-lifetime cosmic confluence. Set your alarm, get out there with your binoculars, and feast your eyes on a phenomenon that will be worth telling your grandkids about. And if you’re in the mood for booze, you can whip up some of these astronomical cocktails that we rounded up for last year’s amazing solar eclipse.

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