Super blood wolf moon lunar eclipse

…if, like me, you’re happy with the ‘lunar eclipse’ part, pretty solid on the ‘super’ reference, and are staring cross-eyed at the ‘blood’ and ‘wolf’ part and wondering if you should write an urban fantasy short story, well, then I feel better.

Since I was home-schooled until age twelve with a father who was contagiously interested in things like planetary conjunctions, moonbows, and navigation, things like lunar eclipses were treats I got to stay up late to watch, and we’d smoke the bottoms of glass tumblers to watch solar eclipses. I learnt to use a sextant and take a sunsight before I was ten (and could get within a mile of Dad’s noon fix with my battered and buggered old sextant and my pencil…).

I was therefore the one getting excited about the lunar eclipse this January, especially as it was going to happen at a very civilised hour in the Pacific timezone (I like my occasional weird happenings in the sky, but I draw the line at oh-my-god early get-ups on work days…). I was less certain that the weather would cooperate; the Pacific Northwest has a deserved reputation for being wet. Really, really, wet.

However, there was an uncharacteristic break in the weather, and we got clear skies and a couple of degrees above zero, so the super blood wolf moon eclipse put on an awesome show for us, although we did miss the asteroid that apparently hit during the eclipse.

So what do all the adjectives mean? I got a bit curious.

‘Super’ moon is the simplest bit, and means that the moon is at perigee (closest to Earth in its orbit). It does this periodically, and will appear up to 30% brighter than normal. The term ‘supermoon’, if you take Wikipedia’s word for it, ‘is astrological in origin and has no precise astronomical definition’. There’s me put in my place…

Blood moon. That sounds very dramatic. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that that’s probably not the astronomical term either. It refers to a total lunar eclipse, and, all world-ending prophecies apart (well, be fair, if you were a primitive hunter-gatherer and saw the moon turn red, you’d probably spin a story about it, too), it gets the name because in a total eclipse, some light still passes through Earth’s atmosphere to reach the moon, and that light loses most of its blue shades on the way through.

I was still lost on what wolves had to do with it. National Geographic to the rescue: it appears that some people with much more free time than I have named each full moon in the year, including ‘blue moon’ – the name for the rare years where there are 13 full moons in a calendar year instead of 12.

So, super blood wolf lunar eclipse; the first full moon of the year, at perigee, undergoing a total eclipse. With an asteroid.

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