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A Super Blue Blood Moon, A Wordy Wonder 

A couple of nights ago a rare lunar event called the “super blue blood moon” dazzled us here in Rajasthan and many others around the world. Here in India, this event was scheduled to occur just after sunset which made it all the more vivid and magical to see with the naked eye. Our JAWAI skies are without a doubt pretty mesmerising on a daily basis, however what we were about to see was something truly spellbinding. To our west we had a beautiful red lit sky painting the rising moon in the east in a warm, fire burning red. So what exactly is a Super Blue Blood Moon other than a bit of a wordy wonder?!

Let’s break it down. Firstly, lets start with the super moon. When the moon is joined with the word ‘super’, it doesn’t necessarily mean astronomers believe it to be utterly fabulous at that point in time (although I’m sure they always think the moon is.) It is called ‘super’ because the moon appears particularly large in the sky and it happens when the full moon coincides with the moon’s closest approach to Earth in its orbit. Supermoons make the moon appear a little brighter and much closer to us on earth than normal.

The super blue blood moon. As the earth moves in between the sun and the moon, the only light that hits the moon is light filtered through out atmosphere, which gives this reddish hue. Photograph by William Asquith
The last time the super blue blood moon was last seen in 1886, just under 150 years ago. Photograph by Vedant Thite

Now for the blue moon. A lunar month takes roughly 29.5 days. Therefore, when a full moon falls early in the month then there is a fairly good chance that there will be a second full moon in the same month. This second full moon in the same month is called a blue moon. You may have heard the expression: “once in a blue moon”, it reflects an event or action that occurs very rarely as blue moons naturally come once in just under 3 years (although atypically the next blue moon is in 2 months time on the 31st March!)

With the earth moving out of the sun’s light path to the moon, the moon starts to appear in its original silver state, one sliver at a time. Photograph by William Asquith
The earth has totally moved out of the way of the sun’s light path restoring the moon to its full glory. Photograph by William Asquith

A “Blood Moon” is the name given for a view of the Moon during a total lunar eclipse, when the earth is positioned between the sun and the moon. When this happens the moon appears reddish in colour as it is illuminated by sunlight filtered and refracted by the earth’s atmosphere. Hence it earns its nickname… Blood Moon.. This glow is produced by the same effect that gives us beautiful red sunrises and sunsets. Sunlight is skimming through the Earth’s atmosphere on its way to the Moon and it gets refracted or bent causing more of the higher frequency light waves (green, blue, indigo and violet) to be scattered while the lower frequency light waves (red, yellow and orange) pass through.

The super moon will appear around 14% bigger and about 30% brighter than usual. Photograph by Vedant Thite

The coinciding of these three magical lunar events is very rare with the last one occurring about 150 years ago (I believe Forbes.com calculated it to occur, on average, once every 265 years) making it all the more special that we were able to enjoy it here at SUJÁN JAWAI.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the next lunar occurrences to hit our skies!
31 March 2018: Blue Moon
27 July 2018: Total Lunar Eclipse (can be seen in Africa, Europe, most parts of Asia and Oceania).


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