By David Chung and Leonardo Yana-Romero
What is a Super Blood Wolf Moon?
The Super Blood Wolf Moon is comprised of three different phenomenons regarding the moon. The first one is the wolf moon, which is just the name for the first full moon in a year that has Native American origins. Now, what does the “super” part of it mean? Well, unfortunately, the moon is still going to be the same ball of rock and dust; there’s nothing necessarily super about it. It just means that the moon is at the position of its orbit in which it is closest to Earth. The blood moon has a reddish-orange tinge. A blood moon goes by another name, a lunar eclipse. When a lunar eclipse occurs, the earth is directly in between the sun and our moon.
To put this into perspective, let’s say a tall person sits in front of someone in class during a lecture. Obviously, most, but not all, of the light is going to be blocked by the tall person. If the light source is bigger than the object (in terms of a human and a lecture screen, it usually is), some of the light may move past and around the tall person and still hit the other person in the back. This is similar to what happens during a lunar eclipse. When the moon is in the umbra, which is the area where the moon is directly behind the earth, most of the light from the sun may be blocked, but still some of it gets past. The light that does sneak past the earth is usually of longer wavelength, since the light itself has been scattered along the distance of the earth. These longer wavelengths are mostly reds and oranges, and when they come in contact with the moon, they produce a red-orange filter. Hence the name, blood moon. A quick side note: this is also the reason why our sky is blue during the day and turns reddish-purple as it gets closer to night. When facing directly towards the sun, all wavelengths reach Earth, light scatters through our atmosphere, and we perceive the blue wavelengths. As night gets closer, the light wavelengths have to travel farther and through more atoms and molecules, so only the longer red and orange wavelengths usually get by.
Future of eclipses
In North and South America, this natural event was completely visible on January 20, 2019. Most of Asia and all of Australia and Oceania was unable to witness it, and the entirety of Europe and Africa only saw a part of it. That will be the only total lunar eclipse for this year, and most likely 2020. There will be another lunar eclipse this July, but it will only be a partial eclipse. But around the same time, there will be a total solar eclipse that will be visible in the nations of Chile and Argentina. Spectacular phenomena such as total lunar eclipses and the Super Blood Wolf Moon won’t always be around. Because of our fast orbit with the sun, the moon gets 1.6 inches, or 4 centimeters, farther from the earth every year as it’s being dragged along the orbit. This gradual outward spiral that our moon is performing will reach a point, 600 million years from now, where a total solar eclipse won’t be possible when viewing from Earth.
600 million years is a very long time, but it reminds us that everything in the universe is temporary. Things we are very familiar with being temporary, such as buildings and structures and cities, are only the surface of things that are truly temporary. Even celestial bodies in space like our moon will at some point no longer be near the earth at all. Eventually, the sun will expand, and Earth will be incinerated by our sun. So with that in mind, let’s enjoy the moments and look up at the sky when these events happen.