A ‘super blood wolf moon’ will be visible tomorrow morning – here’s when and how to see it

Astronomers and skygazers are particularly interested in this year's blood moon, as it is the last of its kind for two years
Astronomers and skygazers are particularly interested in this year's blood moon, as it is the last of its kind for two years

A ‘super blood wolf moon’ will be visible in the early hours of tomorrow morning, bringining a reddish colour to the lunar surface.

Astronomers and skygazers are particularly interested in this year's blood moon, as it is the last of its kind for two years.

"We're going into this unusual lull in total lunar eclipses over the next couple of years," explained Tom Kerss, an astronomer from the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

"So this is a really good one to catch as it's going to be a long time before you catch another one like this - we will have other lunar eclipses, we just won't have anything quite as spectacular until May 2021."

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Weather permitting, the total lunar eclipse should be visible from the UK for a reasonable amount of time.

The eclipse is set to begin at 2.36am on Monday January 21, though observers are unlikely to see anything until much later in the morning.

The best time is around 5.12am to catch the maximum eclipse, when the moon will be completely submerged within the Earth's shadow.

"The moon will be red between about 4.40am and about 6.45am, so it's actually more than an hour that you have to observe this blood moon phenomenon where the moon is totally eclipsed," Mr Kerss said.

The Royal Museums Greenwich will also host a Facebook Live event from 4am, where viewers can watch as events unfold.

A blood moon last occurred in July 2018, though clouds largely obscured the celestial phenomenon in the UK.

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What is a supermoon?

That mouthful of a name comes from all of the interesting things happening to the moon in January.

Firstly, January’s full moon will be a supermoon, so called because the Earth’s only natural satellite is at its closest point to the planet in its orbit.

Being around 30,000 miles closer than it is at its furthest point away, it can appear up to 14 per cent bigger and 30 per cent brighter in the night sky. 

Supermoons are relatively common: there were four in 2018 (though only one of them coincided with a full moon), and there will be five more after January’s in 2019.

In fact, this month’s is the first in a series of three full supermoons, the next two falling on February 19 and March 21, with February’s being the closest and largest full moon of the year.

What is a blood moon?

The ‘blood’ part of the name comes from the total lunar eclipse that will coincide with the supermoon.

When the moon passes through the shadow caused by the Earth, it turns a reddish hue, hence the nickname ‘blood moon’.

Lunar clipses are also more common than you might think – there were three total lunar eclipses across the world in 2018 – but for them to fall on the same night as a supermoon is much more rare.

What about the ‘wolf’ part?

The third part of the long name doesn’t actually refer to any lunar phenomenon in particular.

The majority of pre-modern calendars used the moon as the basis for the names of their months, a convention ended by the introduction of the solar Julian and Gregorian calendars.

In modern times, the moons have developed new names, the majority of which are attributed to Native Americans. They tend to hold particular resonance with the time of year when they fall.

For example, January’s ‘Wolf Moon’ was named by both Europeans and Native Americans because of the lupine howling which haunted the midwinter. 

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