Thousands of stargazers across the northern hemisphere were battling sub-freezing temperatures to catch a glimpse of an unusual set of circumstances resulting in a lunar extravaganza known as a super blood wolf moon, the Guardian reports.
The rare celestial event takes places when moon is positioned slightly closer to earth than normal, and appears slightly bigger and brighter than normal – a phenomenon called a super moon. At the same time, the moon was expected to give off a coppery red glow on the lunar surface as it slips into Earth’s shadow, known as a blood moon.
Since it appears in January, when wolves used to howl in hunger outside villages, it has earned the name wolf moon, according to The Farmers Almanac.
The entire eclipse was expected to be visible from Britain, North and South America, and western and northern Europe, but not in the southern hemisphere.
The clearest views in the UK were likely to be across the far south east, or over many northern and western parts, the Met Office said.
The optimum viewing time is around 5.12am, with the maximum eclipse coming as the moon is completely submerged within the Earth’s shadow.
“The moon will be red between about 4.40am and about 6.45am, so it’s actually more than an hour that you have to observe this blood moon phenomenon where the moon is totally eclipsed,” Tom Kerss, an astronomer from the Royal Observatory Greenwich, said.
Astronomers and skygazers are particularly interested in this year’s blood moon, as it is the last of its kind for two years and lasts for more than an hour.
The entire eclipse was expected to exceed three hours. Totality – when the moon is completely bathed in Earth’s shadow – was due to last an hour.
But in the US, many lunar eclipse festivities were cancelled due to a flash freeze across the central and northeastern states, with icy roadways rather than cloudy skies blamed by astronomers for spoiling the party.
Star gazers from Los Angeles to New York had planned to gather at parks and observatories to keep their eyes on the sky for the total eclipse. Instead, astrology buffs were urged to witness the event live-streamed online at sites such as AstronomersWithoutBorders.org.
Days earlier, it seemed the biggest threat to the event was cloudy skies but it turned out a wet, wide-ranging snowstorm followed by a deep freeze on Sunday made driving and outdoor activities too hazardous. Eclipse parties were cancelled from Indiana’s Lemon Lake County Park to New Jersey’s Rowan University.
“It’s not the snow or cloudy skies, but rather the extreme cold, and what we fear may be hazardous travel conditions,” said Pennsylvania’s Carbon County Environmental Center, scrapping its party in Summit Hill, Pennsylvania.
The story was similar across Canada, where frigid temperatures kept many stargazers inside.
Unlike a solar eclipse, which requires eye protection to safely enjoy the view, no extra measures are needed to be taken for hazard-free lunar eclipse watching.
The blood moon’s red hue is the result of sunlight traveling through the Earth’s dusty, polluted atmosphere. The shorter, more pliable blue wavelengths of light are scattered outside the Earth’s shadow and the longer, less bendable red wavelengths are refracted toward the moon.
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