Rare super blue blood moon

STARGAZERS in Townsville are set to be stunned by a series of astronomical events this month.

It started last night with a supermoon, defined as a full moon which coincides with the closest orbit of the moon to the Earth.

That results in a larger-than-usual apparent size of the lunar disk as seen from Earth.

But a more spectacular moon event will take place on January 31 which astronomers call "a super blue blood moon".

A supermoon rises on September 28, 2015 in Pelussin, France. This is a rare astronomical event when a swollen supermoon and lunar eclipse combined for the first time in decades, showing the satellite bathed in blood-red light. (AAP Image/NEWZULU/RÉMY MANTIONE).
A supermoon rises on September 28, 2015 in Pelussin, France. This is a rare astronomical event when a swollen supermoon and lunar eclipse combined for the first time in decades, showing the satellite bathed in blood-red light. (AAP Image/NEWZULU/RÉMY MANTIONE).

That night will feature a second supermoon, known as a blue moon.

A blue moon is the second full moon in a single month and takes place rarely, leading to the expression "once in a blue moon".

A total lunar eclipse will also take place that night, about 11pm.

A total lunar eclipse has the direct sunlight completely blocked by the Earth's shadow.

The only light seen is refracted through the Earth's shadow. That means the moon will also known as a "blood moon" because it will be glowing red during a lunar eclipse, as it takes on a faint glow from the sunlight reflected through Earth's atmosphere.

The full moon rises over Townsville on Monday night. A blue moon is the second full moon in a single month and takes place rarely, leading to the expression “once in a blue moon”.
The full moon rises over Townsville on Monday night. A blue moon is the second full moon in a single month and takes place rarely, leading to the expression “once in a blue moon”.

Amateur Townsville astronomer Charles Mitchard will be watching the events with his homemade refracting telescope. He cast the astronomy tool from polished aluminium and brass himself.

"It's fun. It beats watching television," he said, explaining why he built it.

Mr Mitchard said the best time to view the moon was not at full moon, but rather the days following a new moon.

He said the supermoon would be best viewed as it rose over the horizon.

"With the refraction of the atmosphere it's about twice the size when it's low on the horizon," he said.

Charles Mitchard will be watching the events with his homemade refracting telescope.
Charles Mitchard will be watching the events with his homemade refracting telescope.

"It's an illusion due to the refractive index of the atmosphere. There will be colours too due to dirt in the atmosphere.

"It's the same effect with sunsets."

Bob Bartlett, treasurer of the Townsville Astronomy Group, said it was a very exciting month for astronomy.

"It's exciting that there's something to look at that's different," he said.

Mr Bartlett said there was no special location to best view the event.

"Anywhere will be good but being January it could be cloudy," he said.



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