By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
Did you happen to catch a glimpse of the super blue blood moon this week? I didn’t, though I tried.
So, what was it? It was our regular old moon — that gleaming silvery white hunk of cheese which has shown us the same smile for millennia now — hanging in the night sky, same as always. Well, almost same as always.
This time around that pale orb, once known as Selene to the Greeks, was to make her circuit across the heavens during a particularly intriguing confluence of coincidences those ancient people may have believed was imbued with some significant meaning.
First, January 30’s moon was set to be a full moon, but not just any full moon. It was going to be a super moon, which occurs when the elliptical nature of Earth’s sole satellite brings it in close to the planet. For hawk eyed observers, a super moon will appear ever so slightly larger than a “normal” full moon.
That elliptical orbit means we here on terra firma can expect about 4-6 super moons per year.
Second, it was a blue moon. Wednesday’s full moon was the second full moon of January, the first having occurred on the first night of the year.
While today people tend to understand that a blue moon is the occurrence of two full moons in one month, traditionally, it meant an “extra” full moon occurring during a season. With four seasons a year — winter, spring, summer and autumn — which each last three months, a true blue moon would be when there are four full moons that occur in one season.
It’s those seasonal blue moons which are rare, happening about once every three years. Nonetheless, many folks considered Tuesday night’s/Wednesday morning’s moon to be a blue moon.
And then there was the third and final coincidence: this week’s full moon would also be a total lunar eclipse.
A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon’s path places it precisely in line with the Earth and the sun, causing the planet’s shadow to darken the entire face of the moon. Several eclipses can occur each year, but a total lunar eclipse are a fair bit rarer.
And thanks to a few tricks of physics involving light waves, refraction and our planetary atmosphere, the shadow the Earth casts on the moon appears red rather than black.
Anyway, after you add those already rare moon oddities together, you realize such variables don’t combine in just such a way very often. In fact, according to Space.com, this week’s super blue blood moon was the first such moon to be visible in the United States since 1866.
It’s interesting to think about the idea of getting a chance to witness a spectacle last seen by people born two or three (or more) generations before our own grandparents. That was the plan, anyway.
I knew that the total eclipse would occur right around the time the moon was scheduled to set — 7:16 a.m., just three minutes after sunrise. I thought I had a decent chance for a glimpse if I could position myself in a spot with a clear view of the horizon. Alas, Mother Nature had other plans as dawn brought with it low clouds which hugged the western rim of the world.
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