Everything You Need to Know About the Rare Supermoon Eclipse This Weekend

Saturday, 26 September 2015 - 12:31PM
Saturday, 26 September 2015 - 12:31PM
This weekend, the sky will be lit up in a most distinctive way: a simultaneous supermoon and lunar eclipse will create an effect in which the moon appears to be blood red. This amazing phenomenon is extremely rare, only occurring five times in the entire 20th century, and the next one will happen on September 27/28. Here's everything you need to know about the blood moon this weekend:

What is a blood moon?

A blood moon refers to a total lunar eclipse, but this particular blood moon will consist of two different phenomena: a supermoon and a lunar eclipse. A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes directly behind the Earth into its shadow, which can only occur when the Earth and moon are perfectly aligned, or during a full moon. 

The supermoon, which is actually called a perigee-syzygy, occurs when two astronomical events occur simultaneously: a perigee and a full moon. A full moon occurs when the sun, Earth and moon line up, with the Earth in the middle, fully illuminating the sun. A perigee refers to the point at which the moon is closest to Earth, and so appears up to 14% larger to the naked eye.

How often does this happen?

This type of supermoon only occurs approximately ever 14 months; last year's brightest supermoon occurred in August, and the next brilliant supermoon will be seen in November 2016.

The number of lunar eclipses is less predictable, with 0 to 3 occurring per year. The next total lunar eclipse will occur on January 31, 2018.

The last time these two occurrences happened simultaneously was in 1982, and after this weekend, the next time will be in another 18 years, on October 8, 2033.

When will it happen exactly?

North and South America will be able to see it after sunset on September 27, while people in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East can view it before sunrise on September 28. Some of the best views will be in eastern and central areas of the U.S. and Canada, beginning after moonrise on the 27th and ending around midnight on the 28th.

Everything You Need to Know About the Supermoon Lunar Eclipse

How can I watch it?

As with most astronomical events, you'll want to try to get away from the city lights, and be sure to be outside for the peak, which will occur at 10:47 pm ET.

And worst comes to worst, you can always watch NASA's live stream of the event:

Is it dangerous to look at directly?

No. Unlike a solar eclipse, there's no need for any protective eyegear while directly staring at a lunar eclipse.

Is something terrible going to happen?

There's a lot of superstition surrounding the blood moon, with some even calling it the harbinger of the apocalypse. But as far as we can tell, there's no killer asteroid heading towards Earth, or anything comparable. In all likelihood, it will just be pretty.

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