Super Blue Blood Moon: Why You Shouldn't Wake Up Early for the Lunar Eclipse

The event will take place early in the morning, but it’s not at all certain that we’ll see it in Israel. Save the date for the next lunar eclipse instead

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A supermoon is seen as is rises in Washington, December 3, 2017.
A supermoon is seen as is rises in Washington, December 3, 2017. Credit: \ NASA/REUTERS

When you carefully read another bombastic headline touting the super blue blood moon lunar eclipse, which is scheduled to take place early Wednesday morning in Israel, you discover that although it really is an interesting event, the moon’s PR team is apparently working overtime. It’s also not at all certain that we will be able to see it here.

This event is a confluence of four phenomena:

1. A full moon, where the entire moon appears – an occurrence that takes place every month.

2. A blue moon, a rarer situation in which the moon appears in its entirety twice in the same solar month. “The time that passes between full moons is 29.5 days,” explains Dr. David Polishook, an astronomer at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. “But because there are 30 or 31 days in a month, it can happen that there will be a full moon twice in a solar month. In Europe and America that’s called a ‘blue moon,’ but that has no connection to its color.”

3. A supermoon, where the moon passes Earth at the closest point in its elliptical orbit around the planet and therefore looks bigger. How big? According to Polishook, when it is closest, it is 10 percent nearer than at its furthest point – a difference of about 40,000 kilometers. It should look 10 percent bigger, but in fact it’s very hard to discern the difference. The photographs of a giant moon we see on social networks are photographed relative to other objects.

4. A lunar eclipse, which, in effect, is the only impressive thing in this whole story. “The moon enters the shadow of Earth and they are along the same line of sight. The process, which lasts for about two hours, begins with the moon looking as though someone is starting to take a bite out of it, until it disappears entirely,” explains Polishook. “It doesn’t really disappear but becomes reddish-orange. The reason is that part of the sun’s rays do hit the moon, but they pass through the Earth’s atmosphere. The atmosphere scatters the rays in all directions and only whatever is the length of the red wave continues and hits the moon. That’s why it looks reddish to us.”

The eclipse, which will last for two hours during sunrise on Wednesday, will be seen only in a very limited area of our planet – mainly in Australia and Southeast Asia. “We will actually see only the edge of the end, if at all. Not something that’s especially worth getting up for,” says Polishook. “I recommend being patient and waiting for July 27, when we expect a full lunar eclipse that will be seen well in Israel, too.”