Last Sunday, our sky put on a show called the super blood wolf moon, an event that will NOT repeat for another 6570 days (18 years).
While the celestial phenomenon sounds like something you’d read in a teenage werewolf novel, its actual meaning is derived from multiple sources.
The term “super” refers to the placement of the moon. This month, the moon will be at its closest point to Earth’s orbit, making it appear larger than normal.
The term “wolf” derives from the First Nation nickname for January’s full moon and the wolves who “howled in hunger outside the villages.” The term “blood” comes from the way the sun’s light bends and refracts off the Earth’s atmosphere and onto the moon’s surface, making it appear red or copper coloured at times.
This phenomenon, called “Rayleigh scattering,” is also what causes the beautiful colors of our sunrises and sunsets as well as what makes our sky look blue. However, that clouds, dust, ash and organic matter in Earth’s atmosphere may change the expected color of a super wolf blood moon, depending where you were when you looked up.
“We’re not sure what color you saw. It really depends on the earth’s atmosphere, whether we’ve had storms, volcanic eruptions, all sorts of things,” explained Dr. David Reitzel, an astronomer and lecturer at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.
“Sometimes you can even get a turquoise color to it. Sometimes the light that goes through the very top part of our atmosphere, it can bend and hit the moon, [making it appear turquoise],” he added.
Unlike a solar eclipse where viewers must use protective eyewear to observe the event, a lunar eclipse was safely viewed with the naked eye. Many used binoculars and telescopes to enhance their experience.
Where the skies were clear, the eclipse was visible from anywhere in North America. Viewers in Europe, Africa and the central Pacific also saw the total eclipse for roughly an hour, although the entire eclipse process lasted roughly three hours and 17 minutes.
Many who were up late, and dressed warmly, saw the event through clear skies in sister city Duluth, MN – with a more comfortable recap in just one photo from the aerial bridge featured here.
And if you were on the moon?
“If you were on the moon during a total lunar eclipse, you would have seen a ring of sunrise and sunset around the earth,” explained Reitzel. ” … And the earth would look 4x bigger than normal, so it easily covered that sun up.”