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Super blue blood moon

The+moon+appears+red+during+a+lunar+eclipse.+Photographs+by++Wayne+Wilcox
The moon appears red during a lunar eclipse. Photographs by  Wayne Wilcox

The moon appears red during a lunar eclipse. Photographs by Wayne Wilcox

The moon appears red during a lunar eclipse. Photographs by Wayne Wilcox

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A super blue blood moon was visible from 4:51 am until 5:29 am on Jan. 31. The last time all three celestial phenomena (super moon, blue moon, blood moon) were simultaneously observed in the Western Hemisphere was in 1866.

A super moon is when a full moon is closest to the earth in its elliptical orbit or when the moon is 223,000 miles from the earth. A super moon appears 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than a non-super moon. Approximately every fourteenth full moon is a super moon.

A blue moon is when two full moons happen in the same month. A blue moon occurs about once every three years. The last blue moon was in July 2015. Two blue moons will happen this year, one in late January and the other in late March. The occurrence of two blue moons in one year will not happen again for another 19 years.

A blood moon, which also is called a total lunar eclipse, is when the earth is between the moon and the sun. The last blood moon was in September 2015.

If the earth had no atmosphere, the moon would disappear during the totality phase of a lunar eclipse. The earth’s atmosphere refracts sunlight. The refraction bends some of the sunlight so it reaches the moon.

Dust and air molecules in the earth’s atmosphere scatter light with shorter wavelengths more than light with longer wavelengths. In the visible spectrum, the light on the violet and blue end of the spectrum is scattered more than the light on the orange and red end of the spectrum. Because the light on the orange and red end of the visible spectrum is less susceptible to scattering, the moon during a lunar eclipse appears reddish.

A blood moon is a lunar eclipse. Photo by W. WIlcox
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