A celestial rarity coming up this week

Rare super bloody blue moon to be visible on January 31

Rare super bloody blue moon to be visible on January 31

To make things more complicated, Blue Moon has also been defined as the third of four full moons in one season - which astronomers say is the traditional definition of the lunar phase.

But in recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in studying lunar eclipses from a surprising source, the discovery of planets orbiting other stars.

The moon's orbit is tilted by about 5 degrees relative to the Earth's orbit.

In Auckland, Stardome will be holding a special lunar eclipse sighting at its observatory. "It's the exact same effect you get when you have a red sunset", said Curt Spivey with the Ward Beecher Planetarium.

Hawaii, Alaska and the West Coast will get to see the eclipse in full. The best viewing will be in western North America. Earlier than that the penumbral eclipse is occurring, which is a fairly dim shadow and so the moon will still look bright.

At 4:51 on Wednesday morning is when that first faint shadow starts to cover the moon. This means that the Earth will come between the sun and moon, effectively blocking the sun's light from reaching the moon.

This is why we have blue skies and red sunrises and sunsets.

If you do miss the eclipse, don't worry. A super blue blood moon will light up the sky in parts of the Western Hemisphere in the wee hours on Wednesday. "While the moon is in the earth's shadow it will take on a reddish tint, known as a 'blood moon, '" NASA explained.

So the super-blue moon won't turn blue, but it will turn red.

The moon will not be blue for people in Asia and eastern Australia because the moon will not be considered full until February 1.

"I'm looking to put on my star gazing hat and if it's a nice, calm evening I'd encourage everybody to go out and have a look at the super moon, " said oceanographer Richard Dewey, associate director of science services at the University of Victoria's Ocean Networks Canada.

A blue moon is when there are two full moons in one month - which MacCarone said is really more about how we structure our calendar. That's about 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) farther than the supermoon on January 1. We'll only have three this winter, so the January 31 full moon won't be blue by this definition.

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.

Wednesday night will also be a supermoon, when the full moon will be closest to the earth on its orbital journey - a mere 360,198km away. NASA predicts that this supermoon will be 14% brighter than usual.

"You'll start to notice a bit of a reddish color on the darker side of the moon".

There are long traditions of giving different moons names.

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