What to know about the Super Wolf Blood Moon

One of the first big astronomical events of the year comes this weekend as the super wolf moon experiences a total lunar eclipse.

Canadian stargazers are in for a treat this Sunday with the first celestial showcase of the year – a lunar eclipse known as the Super Wolf Blood Moon. If it feels like there’s been several special moon events in the past few years, you’re right. So what sets this moon apart from a wolf moon, or a blood moon or a super moon? Dr. Ilana MacDonald, who works with the department of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Toronto, spoke to Yahoo Canada News about what to know ahead of this weekend’s Super Wolf Blood Moon.

What is a lunar eclipse?

A lunar eclipse happens when the earth is between the sun and the moon. This causes the earth’s shadow to gradually cover the moon, and then after a couple of hours, uncover it. When the moon is fully covered by the earth’s shadow, it is called totality. As the night progresses, the earth’s shadow will move off the moon, and the moon will be visible again.

What is a supermoon?

A supermoon happens when the moon is at the point when it’s closest to the earth in its orbit around it. “As the moon is going around the earth, it doesn’t have this perfectly circular orbit,” MacDonald explains. “That means sometimes it’s closer to the earth, sometimes it’s farther away.” As of this weekend, the full moon will be slightly closer to the earth, making it appear larger than it would if it were father away in its orbit.

What is a blood moon?

A blood moon is the phenomenon when a moon is in total eclipse, appearing reddish in colour, as a result of being illuminated by sunlight that’s been filtered and scattered by the earth’s atmosphere.

“When you get a full lunar eclipse, the moon doesn’t disappear, but has a reddish glow on it,” MacDonald says. “Depending on atmosphere conditions, it can either be a deep, dark red or more of an orange brown colour.

What is a wolf moon?

The first full moon of the year is dubbed a wolf moon, a name which traces back to Indigenous folklore.

When is the best time to watch the Super Wolf Blood Moon?

The best place to watch the Super Wolf Blood moon is anywhere where the moon is visible, which entirely depends on whether the skies are clear or cloudy.

“Because the moon is so bright you don’t necessarily need to leave the city to see it,” says McDonald. “This most important thing is to make sure you’re somewhere where there’s no clouds, though there’s no way to control that.”

The lunar eclipse technically starts at 9:30 p.m. EST on Sunday, though it won’t be visible until about 10:33 pm EST, which is when the partial eclipse begins.  The total eclipse begins about an hour later, at 11:41 P.M EST. The whole thing will end at around 1:50 a.m. EST.

The next total lunar eclipse will take place on May 26, 2021.