The "Full Super Snow Blue Blood Moon" occurring tonight (Jan 30) is a rare lunar event. The last time it happened was in 1866 so you don't want to miss this. Hope for clear skies and follow this schedule to get the most out of this spectacular display of our nearest neighbor in the cosmos.
As the sun sets in the west on Tuesday (Jan. 30), look to the east. You'll see a larger and brighter nearly Full Snow Super Moon rising above the mountaintops between 5:45 and 6:25 p.m. MST (Mountain Standard Time). Although the Full Wolf Moon on New Year's Day was also a Super Moon (the largest Super Moon in 2018), you won't be able to tell the difference. That's because the Moon's orbit on this night will be very close to perigee (closest point to Earth) so it will look about 13 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than an ordinary full moon.
Next, make sure you get to bed early because you'll need to wake up at 4:45 a.m. the next morning Wednesday (Jan. 31) to see the Snow Moon high above the western horizon. Pay particular attention to the upper left side of the moon. There you'll see a patch of darkness beginning to make its way across the moon's disk. This is the shadow of the earth. By 6 a.m., the earth's shadow will almost completely cover the moon causing it to glow orange-red (the color of all of the earth's sunrises and sunsets projected onto the moon). If you are far enough away from city lights, you'll also see the splendor of the Milky Way appear arcing across the sky from north to south.
A few minutes later, you'll see the Milky Way begin to fade away because of the glare of the pre-dawn twilight. As the Milky Way "disappears," watch the red Blood Moon at full lunar eclipse phase setting in the west. It's an all-sky event that in some ways rivals the awe-inspiring excitement of a total solar eclipse. You won't need special glasses, binoculars, or a telescope to see this event because you won't be looking at the sun. Just use your eyes and make sure you look at as much of the sky as you can. A lot will be happening!
The last thing to think about is that this is the second Full Moon in the same month. The most common definition for this is a Blue Moon as in the old saying, "Once in a Blue Moon." Generally, Blue Moons occur once every 3 years, but this one is even more unique. Why? It's because we have a short month following this Blue Moon so there won't be any full Moon in February. As a matter of fact, there will also be two full Moons in March!
Two Blue Moons separated by one month is even rarer. Enjoy!
Mount Sangre Observatory is automated
My Mount Sangre Observatory is automated to the point that you can control it from your home/office PC. All you need to do is install the free version of TeamViewer and call me. I'll sync with your PC and you can control the whole thing from operating the dome to slewing the telescope, to taking pictures of your favorite deep space object. You can even take spectra of stars and analyze the elements in their outer atmospheres. I've already taken several images so you can call during the daytime if you wish and perform all the necessary steps to see how the system works. Then, using the images I have in my database, you can run a user-friendly scientific analysis that will take about 15 minutes. We can do the whole thing day or night, snow or sunshine. You pick when you want to do it. Allow about 1 hour of your time to operate the system.
Gary Zientara of Taos Pines Ranch near Angel Fire is a former teacher and lifelong amateur astronomer. See more viewing tips at mountsangreobservatory.com.