Super blue blood moon brings rare triple treat

By Frank Billingsley - Chief Meteorologist, CNN
Headline Goes Here NASA

HOUSTON - The moon is providing a rare triple treat on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, much of the world will get to see not only a blue moon and a supermoon, but also a total lunar eclipse, all rolled into one. There hasn't been a triple lineup like this since 1982 and the next won't occur until 2037.

Some parts of the world will see a full Lunar Eclipse that will turn the moon’s color copper. Thus, some are calling this event a "super blue blood moon."

What's a blue moon?

So what’s a blue moon in the first place? Simply the second full moon in any month and for a month to have two full moons we usually have to wait about 2 1/2 years (or once in a blue moon, get it?). Weirdly, this March also has two full moons so we are in a year with double blue moons! No full moon for February!

"I'm calling it the Super Bowl of moons," lunar scientist Noah Petro said Monday from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

What's a super moon?

Alright, so we have our blue moon. This same moon will be in what is called perigee, or the closest the moon actually gets to Earth during its orbit (apogee is the opposite, the farthest away). So that closeness makes the moon seem about 14 percent bigger and, if it’s a clear night, brighter as well. We call that a supermoon. Same moon, just looks a little larger than normal.

PHOTOS: Houston celebrates super blue blood moon

The moon was actually closest to Earth on Tuesday - just over 223,000 miles (359,000 kilometers). That's about 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) farther than the supermoon on Jan. 1. Midway through Wednesday's eclipse, the moon will be even farther away - 223,820 miles (360,200 kilometers) - but still within unofficial supermoon guidelines.

So we have a blue supermoon coming up. Wednesday, Jan. 31, at 7:26 a.m. to be exact.

What's a lunar eclipse?

Add to this a full eclipse, which we will see in Houston between around 6:52 a.m. and 7:11 a.m., and you get a lunar eclipse of the blue supermoon. Hawaii will see the full eclipse. That eclipse -- when the Earth moves between the moon and the sun -- casts a reddish, blood-red hue on the moon which is where the blood part of this name arrives. So how often do we get something like this? Blue and super and eclipsed, all at the same time?

How rare is it?

Drum roll, please: According to Forbes magazine, blue moons make up about 3 percent of all full moons, supermoons are approximately 25 percent of all full moons, and total lunar eclipses occur during 5.6 percent of full moons. That means that a blue, super, totally eclipsed moon occurs with 0.042 percent of full moons: once every 2,380 full moons or so. On average, that corresponds to once every 265 years.

In the event you aren’t vacationing in Hawaii to see this on Wednesday, be comforted in that fact that we’ll have another chance next Jan. 21 to see a fully eclipsed supermoon. Never mind that it won’t be a blue moon (which isn’t really a big deal), it will be a spectacular sight!

CNN contributed to this article.

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