We might describe a celestial event that’s to usher out the month as a lunar jackpot, when the moon is to be full, super, blue (not literally) and totally eclipsing.
That would all be within a matter of hours on Wednesday morning, experts say, with the moon setting just as day breaks.
The full and super parts are pretty clear-cut, as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration says that the setting moon that morning “will be close enough to perigee to be considered a supermoon.” Such a supersized appearance occurs when the moon is full at just about the same time that it’s at perigee — meaning when its monthly elliptical orbit brings it closest in to Earth.
So, weather permitting, that morning moon could look around 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than one that’s full when it’s farthest away from Earth, NASA said.
As for the total eclipse process, that certainly will be starting that morning, as moon, Earth and sun begin aligning in what’s known as syzygy — with Earth’s shadow blocking sunlight from reaching and reflecting off the moon, leading it to gradually darken.
The glitch for Long Islanders, though, is timing.
The moon will be entering Earth’s outer shadow, meaning just part of the sun’s rays are blocked, at about 5:51 a.m. for those on Long Island, said Sue Rose, of East Meadow, president of the Amateur Observers’ Society of New York. At that point, “unless you are a keen observer, it will be hard to tell the difference,” she said.
By about 6:48 a.m., the moon enters the heavy-duty section of shadow, which blocks all direct sunlight.
“You might be able to detect some darkening, but it won’t last long,” she said, as the show will quickly be over for those in the eastern United States.
That’s because the moon will be setting in the west at a few minutes past 7 a.m. — just as the sun is rising in the east — and, according to Skyandtelescope.com, will be long out of sight for Long Islanders when it reaches totality at just about 8:30 a.m.
For the best view, Rose said, “you need to have a good view of the western horizon and be up before the crack of dawn.”
Alternatively, you can head west, with Seattle seeing almost the whole thing and Honolulu and Anchorage privy to “every stage in an enjoyable dark sky,” says Skyandtelescope.com.
As for being labeled blue, that’s because it’s to be the second full moon in the same calendar month, NASA said, based on a definition coined in the 1940s. While that’s since become “part of the language,” NASA said, that categorization started out as “a misinterpretation” of the earlier definition — the “third of four full moons to occur in one season.”
Still, Rose is not one to throw cold water on this month’s lunar jackpot notion.
The definition has “caught on,” she said, and she’s fine with it, as long as it gets people for one day, at least, “to look at something beyond ourselves and appreciate the cosmos.”