Astronomy enthusiasts might want to set their alarm clocks extra early Wednesday morning.
It’s being billed as the trifecta of occurrences — “The Super Blue Blood Moon,” all happening before 7 a.m. Several sources have indicated something like this hasn’t occurred in over 150 years and won’t happen again until 2028.
On Jan. 31, the moon will be closer to Earth in its orbit, known as perigee, and about 14 percent brighter than usual. This is called a Super Moon.
There will also be a full moon, the second one this month, which is where the term Blue Moon originates from. The moon will pass through Earth’s shadow creating a total lunar eclipse taking on a reddish hue, which is known as a Blood Moon.
Weather permitting, the J. Weiskopf Observatory in Byron will open from 4:45 a.m. for all interested in viewing this event with their own eyes. There is no charge, and the observatory is open to all ages.
According to NASA, the ideal location for viewing, weather permitting, is along the west coast, Alaska, and Hawaii. Viewing in the Eastern Time zone will be a little more of a challenge because of the timing when the eclipse begins and the moon sets in the western sky.
“At 4:51 CST [a.m.] the penumbra — or lighter part of Earth’s shadow — will touch the moon. By about 6:15 a.m. CST the Earth’s reddish shadow will be clearly noticeable on the Moon. The eclipse will be harder to see in the lightening pre-dawn sky, and the Moon will set after 7 a.m. as the Sun rises,” as read on the NASA website, “nasa.gov/feature/super-blue-blood-moon-coming-jan-31.”
NASA notes this event allows researchers a chance to see the effects of the moon’s surface during the cooling process in a closer view. Typically, the transition of the moon is seen from a new moon to a full moon and lasts about 30 Earth days. The lunar eclipse speeds up the process from days to hours.
A scientist on NASA’s website is quoted as saying the surface of the Moon “goes from being in an oven to being in a freezer in just a few hours.”
Just in case the weather doesn’t cooperate here in the Midwest, NASA will be offering a live feed on NASA TV and at NASA.gov/live. Twitter savvy folks can follow at @NASAMoon.
The J. Weiskopf Observatory, located at 7993 N. River Road in Byron, will be open from 4:45 a.m. to 7:05 a.m. Wednesday morning for those wishing to observe the lunar event.
The observatory is open every Saturday, year round from dark until three hours after dark. In June, July, and August it is also open every Tuesday, same hours.
For more information call 815-234-8535 ext. 200. For viewing conditions call 815-234-8535 ext. 216.