Three lunar events will collide on Wednesday night bringing a so-called “super blue blood moon” to the sky for the first time in 150 years.
A breakdown of the formal definition:
“Super” is the name given to the moon when it’s at one of the closest points to the Earth. It will appear approximately 14 per cent larger, and one-third brighter, than when it’s at its most distant.
“Blue” describes the phenomenon of a second full moon happening in a month (it’s where the phrase “once in a blue moon” comes from). This occurs every two and a half years.
The most intriguing part of this trilogy, the “blood moon”, is a lunar eclipse with a twist. The moon passes into the Earth shadow and the bright full moon disappears over the course of a few hours.
“And then something extraordinary happens,” Swinburne University astrophysicist Alan Duffy tells Broadsheet. “The moon should be completely black … except light is bent through the atmosphere of the Earth and scattered onto the moon’s surface.
“It’s essentially all of the sunsets and sunrises of Earth combined, shining onto the moon … This is where we get that reddish colour.”
Historically, a blood moon served as an omen of the “coming of the end times”, but Professor Duffy says it’s “an ominous term for a spectacular sight.”
In Melbourne and Sydney, the lunar eclipse will begin from 9.51pm (AEDT) on Wednesday; the red colour will begin to illuminate the moon’s surface by 10.48pm. The moon will remain completely blood red from 11.51pm to 12.07am into Thursday.
In Adelaide, totality (when the moon is completely red) begins at 11.21pm and ends 12.38am; in Brisbane, totality begins at 10.51pm and ends at 12.08am; in Perth, totality begins 8.51pm and ends 10.08pm.
The view is best viewed with the naked eye. “You just need a cloudless night,” says Duffy.
Australia will share this experience with China, Japan, Korea and the eastern side of Russia.