It’s not often that a spectacular cosmic event presents itself within plain sight of us mere mortals. On January 31, 2018 – which is today – nearly half of planet Earth will have a chance to spot not one, not two, but three cosmic phenomena occurring at the same time!
While residents of northwestern US, Canada, Siberia, Australia and New Zealand will be lucky to observe the entire event, parts of Africa, South America and Europe will not be able to enjoy the event. In India, however, you’ll have a good one-hour window to behold the spectacle from various regions.
The lucky ones to see it first will be from the Northeast, where the event will be visible between 4:21 pm and 5:18 pm IST. Across the country, the eclipse will be total at 6:21 pm and the moon will remain totally eclipsed till 7:37 pm. The west coast and parts of Rajasthan will see the celestial event from 6:21 pm o 7:37 pm. After this, the total eclipse will end and the moon will slowly come out of the Earth’s shadow, the partial eclipse lasting till around 8:41 pm. Overall, the eclipse will last for about 1 hour and 16 minutes.
While lunar eclipses are a common phenomenon, what makes today’s a one-of-a-kind spectacle is the combination of three phenomena – the supermoon, the blue moon and the lunar eclipse, all rolled into one for a massive cosmic trifecta. Also, the last blue moon and total lunar eclipse happened on December 30, 1982 in Asia. Today, 35 years later, it’s going from a double to a triple whammy with the supermoon.
A supermoon, in simple terms, is what you see in the sky when the moon is closest to the Earth along its regular orbit. It looks larger than the ordinary full moon and hence, the ‘super’-lative. A blue moon (yes, this is where the phrase ‘once in a blue moon’ comes from) refers to the occurrence of a full moon twice within the same calendar month. A blood moon refers to a moment during a lunar eclipse when the moon appears to acquire hues of red on account of the Earth’s shadow. And you’re going to see all of this today, at once. Doesn’t sound like a chance you’d want to miss, right?