Sunday, Jan. 20, South Carolinians will get a rare treat from the sky, as three events come together to form what some are calling a Super-Wolf-Blood moon. A wolf moon is simply a traditional name for the full moon in January, and happens, obviously, every year. However, this year it's occurring at the same time as a super moon, which S.C. State Museum Education Director Tom Falvey says occurs when the moon is at its closest point, or within 10 percent of that point, to Earth, thus appearing up to 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than when its orbit takes it furthest from the planet.
In addition, according to University of South Carolina astronomer Steve Rodney, people will see a "blood moon," or a total lunar eclipse, at the same time as the super-wolf moon. The entire moon will be covered by the Earth's shadow, and the only light it will reflect is indirect light filtered through the impurities in the Earth's atmosphere, which will cast a red or reddish-orange color on the moon.
Each of these events is regular and predictable, but it's the confluence of all three that makes this a rare occurrence, said Falvey, who noted that the next time a super moon and a total lunar eclipse occur during the wolf moon, or in January, will be in the year 2033.
The event will begin about 10:34 p.m. and will reach full eclipse by around 11:40 p.m. It will be high in the sky and thus easy to see with the naked eye from anywhere, though the State Museum and astronomy groups will have events to enable people to look through telescopes and learn more. Binoculars will help, said Falvey and Rodney, but they really aren't necessary. The men acknowledge that rain or clouds could spoil the event, but many online sites, including nasa.gov, will stream it live, so no one should be deprived of seeing it.
As of now, it appears that rain predicted for early Sunday should clear out by the evening, so many South Carolinians may get a good look. Rodney and Falvey urge people to get out and look up in the sky, because it will be another 14 years before folks can say they saw a "super-wolf-blood moon."