The next Full Moon brings a lunar eclipse but is it a Super Blood Blue Moon as well? That

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Sunlight still manages to reach the Moon but it must first pass through Earths atmosphere. This both reddens the light (by scattering away the shorter wavelengths or blue light) and also bends the path of the light, directing it into the shadow.

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According to Philip Hiscock, a folklorist at the Memorial University, USA (now retired), the classic saying once in a blue moon is more than 400 years old. It originated as something so absurd it could never actually happen, similar to saying when pigs fly.

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A Full Moon occurs every 29.5 days, but our months are longer (excluding February). This mismatch of timing means that every couple of years there comes a month with two Full Moons.

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The next Full Moon brings a lunar eclipse, but is it a Super Blood Blue Moon as well? Thatdepends

It takes an hour before the Earths shadow crosses the Moon entirely and once the Moon is completely engulfed the period known as totality begins.

This weeks lunar eclipse is a fairly deep one and totality will last just over an hour. Thereafter, the Moon will begin to emerge from the shadows, and it will be another hour before we see the brilliance of the Full Moon once more.

But it is possible on rare occasions forthe Moon to turn blue.

The full Moon of March 19th [2011] occurs less than one hour from perigee a near-perfect coincidence that happens only every 18 years or so.

As a Super Moon this lunar eclipse is definitely on the outer limits, with the Full Moon occurring 27 hours after perigee and at a distance of more than 360,000km (calculated in the usual way from the centre of Earth to the centre of the Moon).

This ensured that theproper namesof the Full Moons (common in North America, such as the Harvest Moon) were correct relative to the equinoxes and solstices.

Changing colours of the Moon during a total lunar eclipse, Mt Buffalo National Park, June 16, 2011.

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The next Full Moon brings a lunar eclipse, but is it a Super Blood Blue Moon as well? Thatdepends

It seems these days that its not enough to be treated to a beautiful natural phenomenon like a total lunar eclipse. Instead, Ive been hearing a lot of hype surrounding this eclipse and the numerous names applied.

But if the weather doesnt cooperate in your local area, you can also follow the eclipse via live streaming bySlooh, theVirtual Telescope, .

Most of the time the Full Moon sits above or below Earths shadow and the Moon remains flooded with sunlight. But twice a year, the three bodies fall into line so that Earth casts its shadow on the Moon.

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Tanya Hill does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Check in with your local planetarium oramateur astronomy group, as many organisations arehosting eclipse eventsso that you can share the occasion with others.

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Its true that lunar eclipses can only occur around the time of Full Moon. Thats when the Sun is on one side of the Earth, while the Moon is located on Earths opposite side.

So what is really going to happen on the night?

At first well see the Full Moon begin to darken. For Wednesdays lunar eclipse the shadow will approach from the bottom-right, leaving the top part of the Moon in sunlight.

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But theres more. This modern definition of Blue Moon arose only 30 years ago.

This is the first time in three years that we have the chance to see a total lunar eclipse from Australia, and the Moon will spend just over three hours passing through Earths shadow.

But when it comes to this lunar eclipse, its not the colour of the Moon but a quirk of our timekeeping that is in play.

The eclipse can be seen by the entire night side of the globe and everyone will experience the event at precisely the same moment. What affects the eclipse timings are local time zones.

As well as being a Full Moon, eclipses can also be described as a Blood Moon because of the Moons reddish appearance, as mentioned previously.

Back in March 2011, NASA published an article describing a super full moon. The precise time of Full Moon that month occurred 59 minutes before perigee, that is, the Moons closest approach to Earth as it travels along its elliptical orbit.

In recent times, a Blue Moon has referred to the second full moon of a calendar month. For most of the world, this lunar eclipse is occurring during a Blue Moon, except for Australias eastern states of New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.

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Theoriginal definitionis as follows: if four Full Moons occur between an equinox and a solstice (for example, in the three months between a spring equinox and a summer solstice) then the third Full Moon should be called a Blue Moon.

As long as clouds dont get in the way, the view should be spectacular.

But regardless of the exact flavour of this lunar eclipse, whats certainly true is that we are part of a grand universe, and Wednesday night is the perfect reminder of that.

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For Western Australia, the eclipse occurs in the early evening, within an hour after sunset. The Moon will be low to the eastern horizon at the start of the eclipse but will move higher in the sky and towards the northeast as the eclipse progresses.

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Considering that its alsoquite difficultto tell the difference in both size and brightness between a regular Full Moon and a Super Moon, this one is really pushing the limits of credibility.

Those states follow daylight saving, which pushes the Full Moon into the following day and out of the month of January (theactual time of Full Moonis 12:26am AEDT, February 1). This leaves January with only one Full Moon for those states and territory.

It must have seemed a worthwhile curiosity to report on at the time.

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For the rest of Australia, the eclipse occurs two to three hours after sunset. The eclipse will begin with the Moon in the northeast and climbing towards the north.

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Atotal lunar eclipsewill occur on Wednesday, January 31, and Australia is in the perfect position to see it. But its also being called many other lunar things, from a Blood Moon to a Blue Moon and a Super Moon.

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The great thing about lunar eclipses is that they are lovely to watch and no special equipment is needed to see the events unfold.

Intense volcanic activity or smoky forest fires can fill Earths atmosphere with dust particles that are slightly larger than usual. As a result, red light is scattered away, giving everything a blue tinge, including the Moon (normally the atmosphere scatters blue light, hencewhy the sky is blue).

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Ive written before about theSuper Moon sensationand its a term that has only taken off in the past seven years.

But the descriptions of Super Moon and Blue Moon may not be quite what they seem.

Seven years later and the Super Moon craze is now a bit out of hand, with some claiming three Super Moons a year depending on thechosen definition.

Totality brings its own surprise. The Earths shadow is not completely black, but has a reddish hue. This has led many cultures, including someIndigenous Australian communities, to describe a lunar eclipse as a Blood Moon.

Read more:Explainer: what is a lunar eclipse?

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