Eclipse alert: When and where to watch the Super Wolf Blood Moon on 20 January

The eclipse is not directly visible to us in India, but here's how to watch it start to finish right off the couch.

With the first of the year's eclipses out of the way, it's only a fortnight before the next one – a rare celestial treat. On the night of 20-21 January, a lunar trifecta will grace the skies: a 'Super Blood Wolf Moon'.

This is the only total lunar eclipse of the year, and won't be directly visible to us in India. We aren't in right half of the world to witness the action live, but that's no reason to miss out on the fun.

Here's how to catch the Super Wolf Blood Moon live and what you can expect from the rare sighting!

What is a 'Super Wolf Blood Moon' eclipse?

The long name is no doubt a mouthful, but what it does do well is emphasise how rare such an event really is!

A Super Wolf Blood Moon combines three separate lunar events in a single, super rare spectacle.

  • When our moon is at its furthest distance from Earth in its orbit and its "full" phase in the cycle, it is called a supermoon.
  • Americans traditionally call a full moon that takes place in January, a 'full wolf moon' from early colonial times, according to The Old Farmer's Almanac.
  • Any ‘blood moon’ is a colloquial reference to a total lunar eclipse.
What a super wolf blood moon looks like in progress.

What a super wolf blood moon looks like in progress.

When and where is the Super Wolf Blood Moon going to take place?

The total lunar eclipse will last an hour and 2 minutes, according to NASA's lunar eclipse projections. The full display — from the beginning of the partial eclipse to the end — will last 3 hours and 17 minutes, but won't be visible from India.

Europe, North and South America have a front row seat to the dramatic spectacle, which will be the last total lunar eclipse for a long time. The next total lunar eclipse is expected only in May 2021.

[Small consolation for the other half of the planet missing out on the action this January: a partial lunar eclipse is due on 16 July, 2019 that will be visible from Europe, Africa and Asia, in which half the moon will don a reddish hue.]

What will be visible to us is a full moon, like any other, as the moon will be below the horizon during the eclipse.

Timeanddate.com has an exact timeline for each stage of the Super Wolf Blood Moon based on where in the world you are.

What happens in a Super Wolf Blood Moon?

Sunlight is scattered by the Earth's atmosphere in a lunar eclipse to give our many different shades of red, which are visible to us during sunset and sunrise.

This happens when sunlight enters Earth's atmosphere at a very specific angle, giving the appearance of all of Earth's sunrises and sunsets reaching the moon's surface at the same time, giving it a red tint.

The event has many consequences on the Earth, including rise of ocean tides slightly within a day or two of the event, explains timeanddate.com.

If there's any chance you're in a part of the world from where you can spot the Super Wolf Blood Moon, you don't need any special equipment to view it. It's best to see the eclipse in clear or minimally-cloudy skies and away from city lights. Consider an open terrace or a garden with a clear view of the sky.

Watch it right off your couch!

For us in India, we're going to miss the live action what with the celestial event falling just outside its range of visibility. However, timeanddate.com has a live stream of the entire eclipse to dodge that FOMO-feeling:

When it the next lunar eclipse?

The last total lunar eclipse took place in July 2018, which was clearly visible over India, countries in Central Asia and Africa.

The first total lunar eclipse after the Super Blood Wolf moon on 21 January will be on 26 May, 2021, visible from North and South America, and East Asia.

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