This is the first lunar event of its kind in 35 years.
Sky observers or anyone who has a penchant for all things astronomical is off to a good start in 2018. On January 31, people will get to witness a super rare astronomical phenomenon, a trifecta of lunar events to be exact — the “super blue blood moon.”
Looking at the moon-related words put together in one term may seem made up to you but this phenomenon exists and it will happen at the end of this month. But first, there is a need to understand what a super blue blood moon is to better appreciate it.
With these three lunar events, it should be noted that they are not what they seem. A Supermoon is just a bit bigger and brighter than normal; a blue moon doesn’t really appear blue and the blood moon doesn’t look bloody red.
But still, this event is considered special because lunar eclipses happen up to three times a year, blue moons happen about every 2.7 years and a supermoon shows up about once every 14 months. According to NASA, this coming together of the different moon events will be the first in 35 years. You might not get to see another one until 2037.
Along with a special full moon like the super blue blood moon comes the belief that the event is tied to some of the natural disasters on land, like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The moon, like the sun, has a gravitational pull, which could have an effect on volcanoes and earthquakes.
“During a Blood Moon event, in other words, a Lunar Eclipse (the Earth is between the sun and the moon). Try to imagine if you are the Earth, and you are being pulled by strong forces (Sun and Moon) from opposite directions. If you are a magma-carrying body or let’s say a balloon and you are being pulled, your “skin” would be distorted, or moved (earthquake) and the precious magma inside you would escape from exit spots (volcanic eruption).”
It is long believed that as the moon orbits closer to Earth, there will be stronger gravitational forces that could spark earthquakes, tidal waves and even volcanic eruptions. This belief stems from coincidences recorded in history, in which catastrophic events happened during, days before or days after an eclipse.
For instance, a massive magnitude 8.3 earthquake devastated Chile and days before that, there was the Sept. 28, 2015 Super Blood Moon.
Amid the solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017, the 17,700-foot Popocatepetl Volcano in Mexico has been rumbling all summer and eventually erupted. On Dec. 21, 2010 and on a lunar eclipse, a 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit Japan. The following day, 11 people were killed in Iran after a 6.5 quake.
Some researchers have also acknowledged that natural disasters are related to special lunar events like a supermoon or blood moon, Express reported. A study published in Nature Geoscience even found a “potentially significant” link between the Moon, the tide and seismic activity on Earth.
“The possibility of tidal triggering of earthquakes has been investigated since the 19th century, and numerous studies have examined this topic.”
The study concluded saying that when the Earth, Sun and Moon align, at a new or a full moon, tidal stresses are maximized. While it is known that the Moon influences the tide, science is divided when it comes to its effect on the seismic activity. Other scientists, however, believe that the lunar events don’t pose a major risk. In 2011, the same claims about special moons influencing seismic activities were made. But James Garvin, who was NASA’s Space Center former chief scientist, explained:
“The effects on Earth from a supermoon are minor, and according to the most detailed studies by terrestrial seismologists and volcanologists, the combination of the moon being at its closest to Earth in its orbit, and being in its ‘full moon’ configuration (relative to the Earth and sun), should not affect the internal energy balance of the Earth since there are lunar tides every day.
The Earth has stored a tremendous amount of internal energy within its thin outer shell or crust, and the small differences in the tidal forces exerted by the moon (and sun) are not enough to fundamentally overcome the much larger forces within the planet due to convection (and other aspects of the internal energy balance that drives plate tectonics).”
Despite the correlations made between the moon and natural disasters, many are quite excited to witness what the sky has to offer on Jan. 31. Unfortunately, not everyone will get the chance to see the super blue blood moon. Those over at the East Coast can only see a partial lunar eclipse. The best time to watch is at 6:48 a.m. ET. Over at the West Coast, skywatchers will catch the special full moon at 4:51 a.m. PT.
People in Alaska and Hawaii will get the best view of the super blue blood moon. The eclipse begins at 2:51 a.m. local time and 3:51 a.m. in Anchorage.
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