Australians were lucky enough to see it on Wednesday night, a rare astronomical event marked by a dazzling array of sunset colors like red and burnt orange: a “super blood moon”.
From Brazil to Alaska, California to Indonesia, people with the right view of the celestial phenomenon were amazed when their moon, usually a predictable, pale, Swiss-cheese-like round in the sky, was transformed into a wild red giant. As one failed words on Twitter, he said, “Man, I’m in love with this Urhhhh.”
The striking representation was the result of two simultaneous phenomena: a supermoon (when the moon is aligned closer than normal to our planet and appears larger than usual), combined with a total lunar eclipse or a blood moon (when the moon is sitting directly) in the shade the earth and is struck by light filtered through the earth’s atmosphere).
“A bit of sunlight flies over the earth’s atmosphere,” said Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist and cosmologist at the Australian National University in Canberra, the country’s capital. He said this creates the effect of “projecting sunrise and sunset onto the moon.”
Depending on your point of view and the amount of dust, clouds, and pollution in the atmosphere, Dr. Tucker adds, the moon appears pinkish-orange or burnt red or even brown.
“A Super Poo Moon doesn’t really have the same ring,” he said.
“You don’t need a telescope”
Sky watchers in eastern Australia caught the solar eclipse from 6:47 p.m. local time on Wednesday and peaked at 9:18 p.m., while those in Los Angeles should see the action from 1:47 a.m. Pacific time.
In Australia, some took to the skies on a special flight to see the supermoon. It left Sydney around 7.45pm and was due to return later that evening. Vanessa Moss, an astronomer with Australia’s National Science Agency CSIRO and a guest expert on the flight, said this type of phenomenon was exciting because it was accessible.
“You don’t need a telescope; You don’t need binoculars, “she said, adding that it was a good opportunity to” look up to the sky and ponder our place in the universe. “
Since a lunar eclipse occurs in the shadow of the earth, only those on the “night side of the earth” could experience it, said Dr. Moss. Places like Europe and the US East Coast were missed.
The supermoon appeared first, a day before the total lunar eclipse.
Then came the first sightings of the Super Blood Moon.
So what exactly happened?
First the moon stepped into the outer shadow of the earth, causing subtle changes in the way its surface appeared. After a few hours it moved deeper into the shadows and began to appear reddish. This process began around 2:45 p.m. Pacific time.
At 4:11 a.m., the moon fell completely into the inner shadow of the earth, turning its full face a deeper shade of red. This total solar eclipse was relatively short, lasting about 14 minutes, and ending at 4:25 a.m. Pacific time. Some total lunar eclipses last almost an hour.
The process then reversed when the moon stepped out of the shadow of the earth and gradually returned to its normal self until the sunrise sank below the horizon at that point on the west coast of the United States.
“A lot of what we do in astronomy is we talk about things that are billions of years old or billions of years away that you never see,” said Dr. Tucker. In this case, he added, people just had to stick their heads outside to “see the fantastic moon”.
Missed it? Maybe next time.
Neither a supermoon nor a blood moon are that rare, but seeing the two together is unusual, say scientists. It usually happens every few years depending on where in the world you live.
A supermoon occurs about 25 percent of the lunar cycles, said Dr. Moss, while a total lunar eclipse occurs in about 5 percent of them.
The last supermoon and total lunar eclipse occurred on January 21, 2019 and the next on October 8, 2033.
In ancient times, the red moon was considered an omen of change and disruption, but after the coronavirus pandemic, it gave people a chance to reflect on a difficult year, Douglas Vakoch, a psychologist who has studied the relationship of humanity with spaces, wrote in an email.
“We wonder if the red moon is a sign of the end of disturbance and suffering or a different beginning,” he said, adding that the moon is one of the constants in our lives. “When that is disturbed, we temporarily lose our berths and for a moment we are pushed by the world we take for granted.”