Later this month, astronomers and amateurs alike will look to the sky to witness a so-called “super blood moon.”
If that sounds ominous, fret not. The super blood moon, visible on May 26 to part of the United States, is called that because it combines two lunar phenomena happening at once, according to Michael Shanahan, the planetarium director at the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey.
The “super” part addresses a supermoon event, which takes place when a full moon is slightly closer to the Earth than usual, thus appearing bigger. Supermoons happen a few times a year, but recently they have become popular with sky watchers.
The “blood” aspect comes from a “blood moon,” a term for a total lunar eclipse. It gives the moon a crimson appearance.
“The full moon goes into the dark inner shadow the earth,” Shanahan told TODAY by email. “However, while our atmosphere blocks the shorter wavelengths such as blue light, it does allow the longer wavelengths of red light to pass through our atmosphere and continue on to the moon, so the moon often turns an eerie copper color during these total lunar eclipses.”
The super blood moon may also be referred to as the “flower” supermoon, taken from the Farmers’ Almanac and named after all the flowers that bloom this time of year. The almanac says its moon names originate from Native Americans, though Shanahan said he has not found any original documentation.
The full moon in May will be the second of 2021’s two supermoons, according to the almanac, following a “super pink moon” at the end of April. May’s moon will be a bit closer to Earth compared to the one in April, but only by about 98 miles, NASA says.
The super blood moon will be visible over eastern Asia, the Pacific Ocean and the western part of the U.S., but not over most of the East Coast since the moon will be below the horizon at the time of the full eclipse.
Shanahan recommended the website Time and Date for more information about visibility times across the world.
The super pink moon in April drew sky watchers around the globe, with photographers snapping stunning pictures from New York City to Sydney to Stonehenge.