Early on Wednesday, January 31, space lovers will be blessed with a trifecta of celestial treats: a supermoon, a blue moon, and a lunar eclipse. Combined, the three events will create what's known as a super blue blood moon (say that three times fast), an ultra-big and bright moon with a reddish tint. Those with clear skies in Alaska, Hawaii, and on the West Coast can watch the phenomenon starting at 4:52 a.m. PT, but NASA will also livestream the event so no one is left out.
As Popular Mechanics reports, the NASA TV and NASA.gov livestream will start at 2:30 a.m. PT (5:30 a.m. for East Coasters), right before the eclipse enters its earliest phase. It's slated to run until 7 a.m. PT (10 a.m. ET), with telescopes positioned at the Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California; LA's Griffith Observatory; and the University of Arizona's Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter Observatory.
Know what a lunar eclipse is, but don't know how a supermoon or blue moon makes the show any more special? Here's a breakdown of what will be going down during the early dawn hours tomorrow. A supermoon occurs when a full Moon's orbit moves it near to Earth, or at perigee, making it appear around 14 percent brighter than normal. This big, glowing Moon will pass through the Earth's shadow, giving it a reddish tint (hence the name ("blood moon"). As for "blue moon," it's simply a term used to describe the second full moon of a calendar month and has nothing to do with the Moon's actual color.
The last super blue blood moon was recorded on December 30, 1982 and the next one isn't expected until January 31, 2037. And for Americans, it's been several lifetimes since the celestial phenomenon has made an appearance: A super blue blood moon was last seen here in 1866.
"Weather permitting, the West Coast, Alaska, and Hawaii will have a spectacular view of totality from start to finish," said Greg Johnston, a NASA program executive and lunar blogger, in a statement. "Unfortunately, eclipse viewing will be more challenging in the Eastern time zone. The eclipse begins at 5:51 a.m. ET, as the Moon is about to set in the western sky, and the sky is getting lighter in the east."
Stuck on another coast, or with bad weather? You can still take part in the experience by watching NASA's livestream, and by following @NASAMoon. Keep a close lookout for the Moon's glowing red stage, which begins at 4:52 a.m. PT and 7:52 ET and will last for around 1 hour, 16 minutes.
Since tomorrow's moon is the third in a series of recent supermoons (the others occurred on December 3, 2017, and January 1, 2018), NASA celebrated by creating the video tribute to the trio below.
[h/t Popular Mechanics]