The year 2019 is set to kick off in a very big way, as stargazers will be able to witness a supermoon as well as a total lunar eclipse in January, and this total lunar eclipse is the only one that will be gracing the skies next year, with the next total lunar eclipse not occurring until 2021.
As Newsweek reports, January’s total lunar eclipse will be visible over a fairly large range that includes both North and South America and regions located in western areas of Europe and Africa. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth is positioned directly between the moon and sun, with the moon temporarily trapped within the Earth’s shadow.
The U.K.’s Royal Museums Greenwich has summed up what occurs during these special total lunar eclipses, stating, “During a total lunar eclipse, the moon usually turns a deep, dark red because it is illuminated by light that has passed through the Earth’s atmosphere and has been bent back towards the moon by refraction. Dust in the atmosphere blocks out the higher frequency blue light waves, but the longer wavelength of red light comes through.”
The total lunar eclipse in January 2019 will be an extra special occasion as the moon will also be a supermoon at this time, which is something that occurs when the moon is in a state called perigee and is at its closest point to Earth, making it appear to viewers to be much larger than it actually is.
Very cool! January's Total Lunar Eclipse is also a Supermoon, meaning the moon will be the closest to the Earth as it can get during its orbit.— WSBT (@WSBT) November 27, 2018
North America will be able to view the eclipse early Jan. 21, 2019: https://t.co/h5h9iAJfpy
Earlier this year, NASA planetary scientist Rick Elphic noted that while these events do occur from time to time, it is still highly unusual to have supermoons and total lunar eclipses occurring so closely together in time.
“It’s usually years between lunar eclipses that have supermoons in them. We just happen to be in a seasonal cycle where last year there was one and then this year, there is one and I don’t think there will be another supermoon eclipse for a while.”
If you want to get the best possible view of the super blood moon in January 2019, Elphic suggests putting away the telescope and using binoculars instead.
“Telescopes can be useful but overpowering; if you’re using a telescope, you get a close-up view of the moon, but it’s really a much more dramatic thing to see against the night sky with binoculars. That’s your best bet.”
With the super blood moon occurring in January 2019, the next two supermoons after this will occur on February 19 and March 21, with February’s supermoon set to be the largest and most spectacular.