MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - The Grand Strand and Pee Dee are no stranger to celestial events, especially after the Great American Solar Eclipse last August. This week will feature another Lunar event, with several rare alignments happening simultaneously.
During the early morning hours of January 31st, 2018 the "Supermoon," "Blood Moon" and "Blue Moon" will dominate the sky.
There's a lot of adjectives to describe this event, so here's a break down of each term.
"SUPERMOON": Describes when the full moon appears larger in the night sky. This is because the moon is located closer in its orbit around the Earth, known as "perigee." According to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the "supermoon," can appear 30% brighter and 14% larger than a normal full moon. The last "Supermoon" occurred a couple weeks ago on the night of January 1st.
"BLUE MOON": Simply put, it is the second Full moon in a calendar month. The first January 2018 full moon occurred the night of January 1st, the same night as the "Supermoon". The moon does NOT change color or appear blue during this time. In rare occurrences, the moon can appear blue due to wild fires, dust storms or volcanic eruptions. The phrase "Once in a Blue Moon," stems from a folklorist in Newfoundland over 400 years ago, according to space.com. "Blue moons" are fairly rare, but another one will occur this year in March 2018, followed by the next one on October 31st during Halloween 2020.
"BLOOD MOON": This term refers to an orange or reddish color of the moon that happens during a lunar eclipse.
LUNAR ECLIPSE: In August 2017, the moon's shadow cast darkness on the Grand Strand and Pee Dee. This time, it will be the Earth that casts its shadow on the moon, blocking out some of the light from the supermoon the early morning of January 31st. The eastern U.S. won't be in "totality" this time as the moon will be setting as it enters the total phase of the lunar eclipse. A lunar eclipse can only happen at full moon. Only then is it possible for the moon to be directly opposite the sun in our sky, and to pass into the Earth's dark shadow. Most of the time, however, the full moon eludes the Earth's shadow by swinging to the north of it, or south of it. Ironically, a lunar eclipse on the moon looks just like a solar eclipse on earth as the earth fully blocks out the sun's light.
SO, WHAT WILL WE SEE HERE?
Unfortunately, the timing is little off for perfect viewing in our area. The bright, full supermoon will visible through the night, but the lunar eclipse does not start until the moon begins to set. The best viewing will be just prior to sunrise as the moon sets on the western horizon. The full moon will appear to have a notched out portion on the upper left side. That "notch" is the earth's shadow overspreading the moon.