Article by Justin Shin
Photographs by Reed Santos, courtesy of NASA
Two weeks ago, much of the world was gripped with anticipation when an extremely rare type of total lunar eclipse slowly made its appearance in the night sky for the first time in 152 years. Many referred to it as a “super blue blood moon”– a lunar phenomena that marks the coincidence of a supermoon, blue moon, and blood moon. Unfortunately for certain people in Western Europe, most of Africa and South America (see image in this article), the eclipse couldn’t be seen.
The name “super blue blood moon” can be subdivided into three components, super, blue, and blood, to present each of the three phenomena that happened simultaneously. A supermoon is when the moon becomes full at the closest point in its orbit around Earth– appearing much bigger and brighter than a normal full moon. A blue moon is an event where a full moon occurs twice during a month, which is an uncommon event because the average lunar orbit period is approximately 29.5 days long. Finally, a blood moon is when the Sun, the Earth, and the moon line up perfectly in a straight line so that sunlight that refracts through the Earth’s atmosphere (higher light frequencies of light such as blue being scattered away due to the Rayleigh scattering effect) and lands directly on the surface of the moon– giving it a distinct red hue. Considering how each of these events are pretty unlikely, it was remarkable how they all managed to fall precisely on the same moment to form this wonderful accident.
While the internet buzzed with excitement– “super blue blood moon” being one of the most searched phrases during the eclipse– ISM’s astroclub did not stay idle. In the hours leading up to the eclipse, Astronomy Club members worked tirelessly in making avid preparations for the viewing. Mr. Hill, an advisor of AstroClub, mentioned that “The observations are very reliant on weather. In Manila, especially, there was a lot of hope involved.” Evidently, despite how thorough the preparations were, the prospect of good lunar observation eventually boiled down just to luck and a few prayers.
During the observation period, Astro Club members had gathered on the HS field –in order to minimize the effects of light pollution– telescope and binoculars at the ready. Then lo and behold; by 7:30, the clouds had begun to part as if God had decided to spin another Red Sea-parting miracle– greeting the Astro club onlookers with the serendipity of crystal-clear skies. Mr. Hill recounted in almost religious meditation, “It was 2 hours of no-clouds. Perfect for viewing.”
It could be said that it took another miracle of clear skies to bring the miracle of the super blue blood moon to us. And the consequences manifested in that innocuous disk of bright orange floating in a puddle of dark sky– as if Mars itself had been plucked from its orbit and brought to Earth. And there was a person gazing up at all this, with a deep sense of wonder and happiness.