“Lunar Trifecta” Lights The Sky For First Time in 35 Years

A composite image of the super blue blood moon at Houston, Texas. (Photo courtesy of Sergio Garcia Rill.) 

A blue moon, super moon and blood moon combination hasn’t made an appearance in over 30 years. Wednesday morning, it illuminated the sky, forming a spectacular lunar eclipse.

The incredibly rare lunar spectacle is being called a “super blue blood moon” for its three celestial events all coinciding at once.

This super blue blood moon brought together millions of people across the world to gaze at the sky, as the moon set and the sun rose. Those who couldn’t get a view of it were able to watch NASA Television’s aired live coverage of the celestial event.

What is a “super blue blood moon”?

A lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, the Earth and our moon line up perfectly, thus casting the Earth’s shadow onto the moon. Those living in North America, Alaska or Hawaii were able to see it before sunrise.

This was the second full moon of the month, as January’s first full moon occurred on the very first day of 2018, an extremely rare occurrence.

This cosmic occurrence hasn’t been seen anywhere on the earth since 1982, but it was especially momentous for those in the U.S., as it was the first blue moon total lunar eclipse that was visible since March 1866.

The meaning behind its name

The “lunar trifecta” got its name from its three-lunar events collision. It is the third in a series of “supermoons” from December 2017 to January 2018.

A supermoon is a full moon that occurs when the moon is at the closest point of its orbit to the Earth – known as perigee – and about 14 per cent brighter than usual which is why it appears much closer and brighter.

It gets the “blue” in its name because it is the second full moon of the month. The popular idiom “Once in a blue moon,” refers to this rare occurrence when there are two full moons in one calendar month.

The super blue moon passed through Earth’s shadow and formed a total lunar eclipse. The reddish tint acquired by the Moon on the Earth’s shadow during the eclipse gives it its name “blood moon.”

“Birds take flight as the very rare Super Blue Blood Moon sets behind the Orange County Courthouse in #Orlando this morning.” Photo Courtesy of Red Huber (Twitter).

“Birds take flight as the very rare Super Blue Blood Moon sets behind the Orange County Courthouse in #Orlando this morning.” Photo Courtesy of Red Huber (Twitter).

The lunar eclipse gave a team of scientists the chance to study the moon using the “Astronomer’s equivalent to a thermal camera,” NASA said. 

The best view of the eclipse in United States was along the West Coast. Those who waited to catch a glimpse of the eclipse in central and eastern U.S. as well as parts of Canada, were only able to see a partial eclipse which was visible since the moon set before totality. 

Although it is unlikely for an unusual overlap of lunar events to appear again anytime soon, lunar eclipses do however occur throughout the year. 

The next super blue blood moon is not expected to occur until Jan.31, 2037. It will be visible in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and parts of Africa according to Space.com. 

What to look out for in 2018

February 15 Partial Solar Eclipse

March 20 March Equinox

June 21 June Solstice

July 13 – Partial Solar Eclipse

July 27 – Total Lunar Eclipse

2017 Timeline

February 11 – Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
A penumbral lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes through the partial shadow of the Earth. The Moon darkens slightly but not completely during this event.

February 26 – Annular Solar Eclipse
An annual solar eclipse takes place when the Moon is too far from the Earth to cover the Sun completely thus covering the Sun’s center. This leaves the Sun’s visible outer edges to form a “ring of fire” around the Moon.

August 7 – Partial Lunar Eclipse
When the Moon passes through the Earth’s partial shadow, and only a portion of it passes through the darkest umbra, that is called a partial lunar eclipse. During this event, a part of the moon darkens as it moves through the Earth’s shadow. 

August 21 – Total Solar Eclipse
One of the biggest events of 2017, the total solar eclipse captured the attention of those across the world as everyone gathered to watch the once-in-a-lifetime event. It occurs when the moon completely blocks the Sun and creates an eclipse of the Sun. Looking directly at the sun is unsafe except during the brief total phase, which is why many people had to get a hold of the special-purpose solar filter glasses. However, only some were treated to the rare sight of the total eclipse while others could only witness a partial eclipse. The next solar eclipse that will be visible in North America will take place in 2024.

December 3 – Full Supermoon
This year’s one and only full supermoon took place December 3. This occurrence takes place when the moon is at its closest distance to Earth which makes it appear larger and brighter than usual. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Cold Moon because this is the time of year when the cold winter air settles in and the nights become long and dark.

December 21 – “December Solstice” 
December Solstice is one of the two solstices that take place during the year. Many people acknowledge December Solstice as the whole day, however it is at a specific moment. It occurs when the Sun shines directly over the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere. The term solstice comes from the Latin word solstitium, meaning 'the Sun stands still'. On this day, the Sun reaches its southern-most position as seen from the Earth and appears to stand still at the Tropic of Capricorn and then reverses its direction.