On January 31, 2018, the Western Hemisphere will experience a Super Blue Moon Eclipse. That’s a mouthful. What does all that mean?
Super Moon: A full or new moon occurring when the moon is at or near its closest point to the earth (perigee). A new moon at perigee does not exactly make for big excitement. The term “Super Moon” most often refers to the condition when the moon is full and at perigee.
Blue Moon: “Second full moon in a calendar month” is the accepted 20th century layman’s definition of the term, though not technically correct. The historical meaning of a Blue Moon was simply a rare or absurd event. The precise scientific definition of the term is so complicated even astronomers have trouble explaining it.
Eclipse: A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes through the earth’s shadow. The penumbra is the lighter outer shadow during which the moon is only partially blocked. The penumbral shadow is usually not noticeable. The umbra is the dark center of the eclipse shadow.
Residents along the Northern Gulf Coast will find the moon low in the west before sunrise January 31st. To see anything, you will need a clear view of the western horizon. Will you experience enough of the eclipse to warrant waking a house full of homeschool sleepyheads before the crack of dawn? Let’s see.
The time required for the earth’s dark umbral shadow to pass over the moon will be approximately three hours and 23 minutes. Totality will last a little more than one hour and fifteen minutes. We used the US Naval Observatory’s Lunar Eclipse Computer to pull up the following information.
The January 31 Super Blue Moon will enter penumbra at 4:49 AM, umbra at 5:48 AM, and totality at 6:51 AM. (Central Standard Time).
Pensacola – Moonset: 6:41 AM
Mobile – Moonset: 6:45 AM
Gulfport – Moonset: 6:48 AM
New Orleans – Moonset: 6:52 AM
Beaumont – Moonset: 7:09 AM
Umbra is where the excitement occurs, with totality representing the fullness of the umbral shadow. Locations east of New Orleans will not experience totality before the moon sets. The Big Easy will get about one minute of it. Our friends in Beaumont with unobstructed views of the western horizon will witness almost 20 minutes of the moon’s complete disappearance.
For most Northern Gulf Coast families observing the eclipse from neighborhoods where trees and homes obstruct the horizon, there will not be anything to see. If you have access to a clear western view, are an early riser, and don’t mind the cold, you might just catch a glimpse of the Super Blue Moon Eclipse.
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