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An Illinois River Almanac

Jason Haupt's Energy and Environment Blog

Once in a Blood Moon


This is an exciting time for space.  This year saw the first high quality photos of Pluto, the International Space Station has two astronauts that are spending an entire year in space to study the effects on the human body, and this June saw the end of an 8 month experiment simulating a mission to Mars (a yearlong study began in August).  It seems to me that we are living in a Science Fiction Novel.

Staying closer to home there have been some spectacular events that could be viewed from your back yard.  From the meteor shower to the rare blue moon this year we have been able to witness the beauty and majesty that the night sky has to offer.  But the wonder does not stop there.  On September 27 2015 you will have the opportunity to view a rare event in the night sky.  It is a “Supermoon” Total Lunar Eclipse.  Sound amazing right?  Well it is and it has not been seen for more than 3 decades and if you miss it you will not be able to see another one until 2033.

So what exactly is happening?  The moons orbit is elliptical and as a result is closer to the earth at some points than others.  The full moon in September will occur when the moon is at or very near its closest point to the earth, also known as it perigee.   That means that the moon will appear 14 percent larger.  This means that September’s full moon will be larger and brighter than normal which is called a “Supermoon”.

In addition to the Supermoon a total lunar eclipse will take place on September 27 2015.  The moon will pass completely into the Earth’s shadow causing the moon to appear red in color.  This is caused by the light from the sun being bent by Earth’s atmosphere.  The red hue of the moon is the reason that they are often called a “blood moon”.  A lunar eclipse is not an uncommon occurrence being visible on average every 2 and a half years.  The blood moon and the Supermoon occurring at the same time is an uncommon occurrence.  Since 1900 it has only occurred 5 times.

The Peoria Astronomical Society will be hosting an excellent opportunity to view this rare occurrence.  On the night of September 27 Head out to the Northmoor Observatory in Donavan Park in Peoria to have an even better view of this event.  It is an excellent opportunity to talk to some of the Peoria Astronomical Society members and learn more about the night sky.  More information and details about this event can be found at www.astronomical.org.

The wonders of the night sky are an excellent opportunity to get out and enjoy the beauty that nature has to offer both near and far.

 



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