Stargazers will be in for a treat this weekend with the so-called ‘super blood wolf moon’ set to appear, the last one for another 18 years.
The stars are set to align for stargazers this weekend with the arrival of a truly spectacular and rare event that will light up the night sky bright red.
Due to arrive on the night of Sunday 20 January in North and South America, and the early morning of Monday 21 January for western Europe and western Africa, the so-called ‘super blood wolf moon’ sounds impressive, because it is.
Comprising three phenomena, the event is really the alignment of the moon, the Earth and sun into what is known as a lunar eclipse. This alignment results in the blood-red colour covering the moon.
Throw into that the fact that this will also be a supermoon event, which typically occurs between two and five times a year, and also a super blood moon, with only about five of them occurring in a decade.
Where to watch online
A supermoon – or a perigee syzygy, to give it its technical name – is roughly 14pc larger than its typical size in the night sky as the moon reaches the closest point it can come to Earth in its elliptic orbit. However, the closest full supermoon we will see this century is set to occur on 6 December 2052.
The final part of the super blood wolf moon tripartite is the wolf element, which simply refers to the folk tradition of a lunar event occurring in January being named a wolf moon.
For those of us in Ireland, the full moon is due to begin quite early on Monday morning, from 3.34am to 6.51am, with the blood moon to last a period of about one hour starting at 4.41am.
Of course, hoping for Irish weather to hold out in winter to let us see the phenomenon is never a safe bet, but thankfully stargazers in more reliable weather conditions will be streaming the event live online. The Virtual Telescope Project based in Rome is just one place where you can watch it all happening in near real time.
Those who will definitely be watching online are residents in most of Asia and Oceania, where the event will not appear at all in the night sky.