Be sure to look up early Wednesday morning to glimpse a special sight. There will not just be a full moon in the pre-daybreak sky, but also:
1. a supermoon
2. a blue moon and
3. a partial lunar eclipse.
Here’s a little more about each of these:
A supermoon happens when the full moon is at a close point in its elliptical orbit around the earth. The moon’s closer position to the earth makes it appear up to 14% bigger and up to 30% brighter than a regular full moon. This happens five to six times a year.
2. Blue moon
“Blue moon” is a term for the second full moon in a single calendar month. Our first full moon this month was on January 1, and this second full moon on Wednesday, January 31 qualifies as a “blue moon.” The moon does not actually look blue. This usually happens every two to three years, but it happens twice in 2018 – on January 31 and March 31.
3. Lunar eclipse
A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes through the earth’s shadow, resulting in a reddish glow over the moon’s surface. Unfortunately, the total lunar eclipse (where the entire moon is covered in a reddish glow) will not be visible here in New Orleans, because the moon will be below the horizon before the total eclipse happens.
However, we will be able to view a partial lunar eclipse, when part of the moon will take on a slight reddish glow. This partial eclipse starts at 5:48 a.m. CST and will continue until the moon sets at 6:50 a.m. CST. The total lunar eclipse then occurs from 6:51 a.m. to 8:07 a.m. CST for those parts of the country where it will be visible. Lunar eclipses happen up to a few times a year, although they are not always visible in all locations.
So how can you see it in the New Orleans area?
To see the supermoon and blue moon, just look up at the night sky anytime Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning. The moon rises at 4:54 p.m. CST Tuesday and sets at 6:50 a.m. CST Wednesday. We will have clear skies, so you should be able to view it easily.
To see the partial lunar eclipse, look to the west near the horizon starting around 5:48 a.m. until 6:50 a.m. CST Wednesday. The moon will gradually take on a slight reddish glow over part of its surface before it descends below the horizon at 6:50 a.m. CST.
How rare is it?
While none of these is extremely rare on its own, all three events have not happened at the same time in North America in more than 150 years - since March 31, 1866.