SPOKANE, Wash. — A brilliant celestial event was on display Sunday evening across the nation.
Sunday's lunar eclipse is sometimes referred to as a "Blood Moon" because of the rust-red color the full moon takes on during the eclipse. The weekend's eclipse also doubled as "Supermoon" and "Wolf Moon," making it a "Super Blood Wolf Moon" trifecta.
A Lunar Eclipse occurs when the moon passes through Earth's shadow. There are three phases to the Lunar Eclipse.
First - the penumbral phase, when the moon moves through Earth's outer shadow, known as the penumbra. The entire moon is still visible, but you will notice it getting dimmer in the night's sky as the sun becomes partially blocked from the perspective of the moon.
Second - the partial phase, as part of the moon is shrouded in darkness. More and more of the moon will become obscured as it enters Earth's inner shadow called the umbra.
Third - the full phase, or Total Lunar Eclipse. Once the entire moon enter Earth's umbra (inner shadow) the moon glows a dark, almost blood red shade. The reason that the moon doesn't complete vanish from the sky is because some of the sun's light that passes through Earth's atmosphere is bent, or refracted, towards the moon. Think of it as all of Earth's sunrises and sunsets are being projected on the moon's surface. That's that what we see during the total lunar eclipse.
The eclipse was visible for the entire United States, Canada, Central America, South America, and most of western Europe and Africa pending the weather and cloud coverage.
A Supermoon is a full moon that occurs when the moon is closest to the Earth. The moon's orbit around the Earth is not a perfect circle, it's slightly elliptical, means that the distance from the Earth to the Moon varies each cycle. It's it's closest approach (known as perigee), about 222,000 miles, the moon appears slightly bigger and slightly brighter than usual. To be more specific, the moon is about 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter from its mini-moon counterpart (a full moon at its farthest distance).
Usually three full moons each year are classified as a Supermoon, so they're not all that uncommon. As for getting a Supermoon and Blood Moon at this same time is a lot more rare, but it last occurred less than a year ago. Jan. 31, 2018, was a "Super-Blood Moon" with a blue moon.
A Wolf Moon is just the full moon in January. The Old Farmers' Almanac which commonly uses the different full-moon names throughout the year sites that the names come from Algonquin tribes who lived in New England to Lake Superior.
In case you're curious as to what each month's respective full moon name is:
January: Wolf Moon
February: Snow Moon
March: Worm Moon
April: Pink Moon
May: Flower Moon
June: Strawberry Moon
July: Buck Moon
August: Sturgeon Moon
September: Corn Moon
Autumn Equinox: Harvest Moon
October: Hunter's Moon
November: Beaver Moon
December: Cold Moon
The next Lunar Eclipse visible in the U.S. isn't until May 26th, 2021 and only for the western half of the States. Keep your fingers crossed for clear skies and happy viewing!