Anyone who glances up at the night sky the weekend of the Kansas City Chiefs’ AFC Championship game is in for an unusual, if conveniently timed sight.
On Jan 20, a total lunar eclipse will take place. A lunar eclipse is sometimes referred to as a ‘blood moon’ for the reddish hue the moon becomes as it passes into Earth’s shadow. The red-colored moon comes on the same weekend the Kansas City Chiefs face off against the New England Patriots, hosting the AFC Championship game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City for the first time ever. If the Chiefs best the Patriots, they will play their first Super Bowl in 49 years.
The same night of the eclipse will be a super moon, which happens when the moon reaches its closest point to the Earth during its monthly orbit around our planet.
That night will also be a full moon. January’s full moon is known as the “wolf moon.”
The result? A trifecta of lunar phenomena, which has been dubbed the Super Blood Wolf Moon, will all take place on Jan. 20.
“It is a very unusual event, so having all these things happen at the same time is not something that you’re going to see again any time soon,” said Director of the Ruth Patrick Science Center Gary Senn. “So take advantage of it…if you miss it, you might not ever get to see one again.”
While the solar eclipse of 2017 was only visible across a swath of the United States, the Super Blood Wolf Moon will be perfectly visible to everyone in the country.
“Basically, when the eclipse occurs, the entire side of the planet that’s on the dark side — the side that’s at night — will see the eclipse,” said Senn.
The Dupont Planetarium at the Ruth Patrick Science Center of USC Aiken will be hosting a viewing party for the eclipse. The observatory telescope will be available for use during this event, which is free and open to the public.
Starting around 10:30 p.m. that night, the curved shadow of Earth will begin to fall across the moon. By the time the eclipse is in totality — which Senn said will last about an hour — the moon, which will be full and may appear up to 14 percent larger than usual, will be fully in the Earth’s shadow.
The red color of this shadow comes from the atmosphere, according to Senn. When Earth blocks sunlight from the moon, its atmosphere will capture the spectrum of colors contained within light.
“Remember R.O.Y. G. B.I.V.?” Senn asked, referencing the colors of the rainbow taught in school.
Because red light has the longest wavelength, it is the only color that will escape Earth’s atmosphere and strike the moon, which is why the moon appears to turn red during a lunar eclipse.
The next total lunar eclipse will not be visible to the United States until 2021.
No glasses or special equipment are required to view lunar eclipses.
For more info about the event, visit rpsec.usca.edu to see viewing party info and the timetable for the eclipse. The Ruth Patrick Science Center can also be contacted at 803-641-3313.