The night of 31st January will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for lovers of the stars, moon, and skies in Kerala to witness an incredibly rare celestial phenomenon—a supermoon, a blue moon and a total lunar eclipse, will all occur at the same time!
Claimed to have been last witnessed over 150 years ago on March 31, 1866, the skies will surely be a treat for sore eyes with the super blue blood moon!
However, it is essential to understand what each phenomenon means in astronomical terms.
What is a supermoon?
A supermoon refers to a full or new moon that is close to the earth (3.56 lakh kms), where the moon appears 14% larger and 40% brighter.
What is a blue moon?
Ever heard the term ‘once in a blue moon?’ This refers to the second full moon in a calendar month. It is also a phenomenon whereby the moon appears bluish owing to smoke or dust particles in the atmosphere
What is a blood moon?
Though it is not a scientific term and may find references in biblical texts and pop culture, a blood moon refers to the phenomenon of a total lunar eclipse that occurs when the moon travels through the earth’s umbra (the dark central portion of its shadow).
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So, during a total lunar eclipse, the sun, the earth and the moon form a straight line. And when this happens, earth blocks any direct sunlight from reaching the moon. The sun is behind the earth, so the sun’s light casts earth’s shadow on the moon. This shadow covers the entire moon and causes a total lunar eclipse.
But even during the process, the moon does not turn completely dark and appears reddish. This is because a part of the sunlight still reaches the moon’s surface indirectly, through the earth’s atmosphere. This appearance of the moon during the total lunar eclipse is referred to as the red moon or blood moon.
Scholars say that the colour of the blood moon may vary from a range of brown to red, entirely depending on the atmospheric humidity and pollution.
If the three phenomena sound so visually-appealing, individually, you can imagine what the final result of the three happening at the same time will be!
How do you catch a glimpse of this in Kerala?
Speaking to the Times of India, Jayant Ganguli, a technical officer at the Regional Science Centre and Planetarium in Kozhikode said, “The partial shadow on the moon would be seen at 4:21 pm, while the complete lunar eclipse would be visible at 6:21 pm. The moon will emerge from the complete lunar eclipse at 7:37 pm and will turn into a partial one by 8:41 pm. Then the moon will be fully visible once again.”
To commemorate the rare occasion, many mass moon watching programmes are being organised across the state, including the Regional Science Centre and Planetarium, Kozhikode.
Though the phenomenon is visible to the naked eye, the planetarium will allow sky watchers to use their telescopes.
If you don’t catch the one at Kozhikode, you can head to the Priyadarshini Planetarium in the Kerala Science and Technology Museum (KSSTM) in Thiruvananthapuram, which in addition to setting up telescopes for public viewing, will also conduct awareness classes with an astrophysicist.
While the classes begin from 4:00 pm onwards, the sky observation will begin after a short tea break, allowing people to enjoy the view of the moon after sunset.