If you enjoy stepping outside to look at a full moon or a lunar eclipse, you’re about to get a special treat.
The Super Blood Moon is coming later this month, on Wednesday, May 26.
Here’s what that means: Not only will there be a full moon, it will be a supermoon. The event becomes even more rare because the supermoon will occur during a total lunar eclipse.
May’s Full Moon
May’s full moon is called the Flower Moon for the obvious reason that flowers are blooming across North America, Farmer’s Almanac explains. The moon will become full at 7:14 a.m. EST.
The first part of what makes May’s full moon special is that it will be a supermoon.
The moon’s orbit around Earth is elliptical, not circular. Although the distance between the moon and Earth varies throughout the month and even the year, the average distance is approximately 238,000 miles, a timeanddate.com article explains.
Since the moon has an elliptical orbit, however, there are times when it is closer to Earth than others. The point on the Moon’s orbit when it is closest to Earth is called the perigee. When the moon is full when it reaches that point, it’s called a supermoon.
There is no official definition stipulating how close the moon must be to Earth to be considered a supermoon. Timeaddate.com considers the full moon to be a supermoon when it is less than 223,694 miles from the center of Earth. When that occurs, the moon will appear about seven percent larger than any other month’s full moon, and it will be approximately 15 percent brighter than other full moons.
Will The Moon Be Red?
The term Blood Moon isn’t scientific but instead refers to the moon’s reddish-orange appearance during a total lunar eclipse.
“During the eclipse, the full moon goes into the dark inner shadow of Earth,” Michael Shanahan, the planetarium director at the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey, told the Today show. “However, while our atmosphere blocks the shorter wavelengths such as blue light, it does allow the longer wavelengths of red light to pass through our atmosphere and continue on to the moon. So the moon often turns an eerie copper color during these total lunar eclipses.”
Interestingly, the phenomenon when colors toward the violet spectrum are filtered out is known as Rayleigh scattering. This phenomenon is also the reason why sunrises and sunsets can be so colorful.
How To View The Super Blood Moon
If the skies are clear and you are in parts of the western U.S., western South America, Australia, or South-East Asia, you will be able to see the Super Blood Moon — when the moon is totally eclipsed — for about 14 minutes on May 26, beginning at 4:47 a.m. EST. If you are east of the Mississippi River, the moon will be very low or even below the horizon during the eclipse, so it may not be visible.
You can use this interactive map to determine when and how much of the total lunar eclipse will be visible from your location. And, if you want to learn about other night-sky events, check out all of our stargazing content here.