Australians were among those lucky enough to see it on Wednesday evening, a rare astronomical event marked by a dazzling array of sunset colors like red and burnt orange: a “super blood moon”.
From Brazil to Alaska, California to Indonesia, people with a good view of the celestial phenomenon marveled when their moon, usually a predictable, pale, swiss cheese-like round, transformed into a fierce giant. Red. As a Twitter user, words missing, put it: “Dude, I’m in love with this urghhh.”
The striking display was the result of two simultaneous phenomena: a super moon (when the moon aligns closer than normal to our planet and appears to be larger than usual), combined with a total lunar eclipse, or moon of blood (when the moon sits directly in Earth’s shadow and is struck by light filtered through Earth’s atmosphere).
“A little sunlight skims the Earth’s atmosphere,” said Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist and cosmologist based at Australian National University in Canberra, the nation’s capital. He said it creates the effect of “sunrise and sunset being projected onto the moon.”
Depending on your perspective and the amount of dust, clouds and pollution in the atmosphere, Dr. Tucker added, the moon appears pinkish-orange or burnt red or even a brown color.
“A super poo moon doesn’t really have the same ring,” he said.
“You don’t need a telescope”
Sky watchers in eastern Australia captured the eclipse starting at around 6:47 p.m. local time on Wednesday, peaking at 9:18 p.m., while those in Los Angeles were expected to see the action start at 1:47 a.m. Peaceful.
In Australia, some took to the skies on a special flight to see the super moon. He left Sydney around 7:45 p.m. and was due to return later that evening. Vanessa Moss, astronomer for Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, and a guest expert on the flight, said this kind of phenomenon was exciting because it was accessible.
“You don’t need a telescope; you don’t need binoculars, ”she said, adding that it was a good opportunity to“ look at the sky and think about our place in the universe ”.
Because a lunar eclipse occurs in Earth’s shadow, only those on the “night side of Earth” have been able to experience it, Dr. Moss said. Places like Europe and the east coast of the United States have not succeeded.
The super moon appeared first, a day before the total lunar eclipse.
Then came the first sightings of the super blood moon.
So what exactly happened?
At first, the moon entered the Earth’s outer shadow, creating subtle changes in the way its surface appeared. After a few hours, it penetrated deeper into the shade and began to appear reddish. This process began around 2:45 a.m. PT.
At 4:11 a.m., the moon fell completely into Earth’s inner shadow, giving its face a darker red tint. This total eclipse was relatively short, lasting about 14 minutes and ending at 4:25 a.m. PT. Some total lunar eclipses last almost an hour.
The process was then reversed as the moon emerged from Earth’s shadow, gradually returning to its normal state until sunrise, when on the west coast of the United States it sank beneath the ‘horizon.
“A lot of what we do in astronomy is we’re talking about things that are billions of years old or billions of years old that you never see,” Dr. Tucker said. In this case, he added, people only had to stick their heads out to “see the awesome moon.”
Did you miss it? Maybe next time.
Neither a super moon nor a blood moon is that rare, but seeing the two together is unusual, scientists say. This usually happens once every several years, depending on where in the world you live.
A super moon occurs in about 25% of lunar cycles, Dr Moss said, while a total lunar eclipse occurs in about 5% of them.
The last super moon and the total lunar eclipse happened on January 21, 2019, and the next one will be on October 8, 2033.
In ancient times, the red moon was seen as an omen of change and disruption, but in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, it gave humans the opportunity to reflect on a difficult year, Douglas Vakoch, a psychologist who studied humanity’s relationship with space, wrote in an email.
“We wonder if the red moon is a sign of the end of disruption and suffering, or another beginning,” he said, adding that the moon is one of the constants in our lives. “When this is disturbed, we temporarily lose our moorings and, for a moment, we are pushed around by the world we take for granted. “