Something unusual will happen on January 31. A total lunar eclipse, which will be visible from Asia, Australasia and North and Central America, will coincide with a “blue moon” and a “supermoon” in what some are calling a “super blue blood moon.”
The event, which for western hemisphere observers happens for the first time in 150 years, will also be the last in a trilogy of supermoons over the past two months. It sounds cool, but how excited should you really be? And is there anything scientists can actually get out of it?
To be honest, I feel pretty conflicted about all the excitement surrounding the supermoon, a term which describes the moon when it is at a close point to the Earth. It’s great that people get excited about astronomy, but the trouble is that a supermoon in itself is not really all that special.
Since the moon follows an elliptical orbit around the Earth, the distance between the two bodies changes, ranging from about 360,000km to 406,000km (224,000 to 252,000 miles). At its closest point, perigee, the moon will obviously appear largest. Such a “maximoon” has an apparent diameter about 13 percent larger than a “minimoon” at its most distant point, apogee.
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