Albany area will miss the best part of Wednesday’s super blue-blood moon
ALBANY — Wednesday’s lunar eclipse, which promises to be a spectacular celestial show in parts of the United States, has a long list of adjectives attached to it. In fact, it almost sounds like heavenly royalty as the sun, Earth and its natural satellite line up for a rare “super blue blood moon.”
In the Albany area, however, you may want to add “disappointing.”
So, what makes Wednesday’s eclipse so special?
It will be a “blue” moon because it is the second full moon this month, reaching 100 percent at 8:28 a.m. Wednesday. 2018 opened with a full moon on Jan. 1. The name can be confusing because some think it means the moon will be a bluer color than normal, but the term refers to the frequency of the moon reaching its full phase within a month, not a color. In fact, the moon will be much redder than normal during the eclipse.
Full lunar eclipses have come to be known as “blood” moons because of the dim reddish hue the moon projects toward Earth during the event as it moves into and out of totality, which takes place from 7:51 a.m. until 9:07 a.m. The red color is caused by the Earth’s atmosphere serving as a lens that bends red light from the sun, allowing it to reach the lunar surface and reflect back to the Earth despite the fact that our plant is blocking direct sunlight from reaching the moon.
It will be a “super” moon because it will be close to the Earth — or at perigee — in its elliptical orbit. This is the third consecutive “super moon,” following the ones on Jan. 1 and Dec. 3. NASA officials say the moon is about 14 percent brighter than normal when a full moon occurs that the closest point of its orbit.
Now for the disappointing part. While the early forecast Sunday indicated the sky likely will be clear for viewing in the Albany area Wednesday morning, the super blue blood moon, unfortunately, will be an early morning setter. It will enter totality after moon-set and daybreak in the Albany area.
Individuals in areas such as the Pacific Standard Time zone, however, can expect quite a show if their local weather cooperates. The moon will be in full eclipse for people who live in the PST from 4:51 a.m.-6:07 a.m. at their local time on Wednesday.
“Weather permitting, the West Coast, Alaska and Hawaii will have a spectacular view of totality from start to finish,” Gordon Johnston, program executive and lunar blogger at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said on the nasa.gov website. “Unfortunately, eclipse viewing will be more challenging in the Eastern time zone. The eclipse begins at 5:51 a.m. ET, as the moon is about to set in the western sky, and the sky is getting lighter in the east.”
In the Albany area, the moon will set around 7:31 a.m., about a minute after sunrise. But the sky will already be getting brighter in the east as the moon sets in the west. Astronomical dawn — the point at which the night sky begins to lighten ahead of sunrise — is at 6:07 a.m., and civil twilight, which is when the sky becomes bright enough for artificial light to not be needed for outdoor activities and only the brightest celestial objects can be seen with the naked eye, starts at 7:05 a.m.
Still, Johnston said people in the Eastern time zone will get a chance to see some changes as the moon begins to slip further into the Earth’s shadow.
The moon will begin moving into the Earth’s penumbra, causing a red tint to begin, at 6:48 a.m. The rusty color will get deeper as it moves into the darkest part of the planet’s shadow, the umbra, when its orbit places the satellite directly opposite the sun in relation to the Earth.
“So your best opportunity if you live in the East is to head outside about 6:45 a.m. and get to a high place to watch the start of the eclipse — make sure you have a clear line of sight to the horizon in the west-northwest, opposite from where the sun will rise,” Johnston said.
Of course, there’s always next year. NASA says the next lunar eclipse that will be visible across the U.S. will be Jan. 21, 2019. That also will be a super moon, but not a blue moon.