Last year’s solar eclipse gave South Carolinians a front row seat for the big show, but it won’t be so easy in the Lowcountry for skywatchers to watch Wednesday’s lunar eclipse.
The combination of a supermoon, a blue moon and a lunar eclipse is happening on Wednesday morning, and skywatchers in the Eastern time zone will have to watch their clocks — and the sky — carefully to witness this rare “super blue blood moon.”
NASA is calling it “a lunar trifecta.”
In the Eastern time zone, the total eclipse doesn’t happen until well after the the moon is below the horizon, according to timeanddate.com, but those looking up in South Carolina may be able to see the beginning of the eclipse.
“Your best opportunity if you live in the East is to head outside about 6:45 a.m. and get to a high place to watch the start of the eclipse — make sure you have a clear line of sight to the horizon in the west-northwest, opposite from where the sun will rise,” Gordon Johnston, program executive and lunar blogger at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a news release.
Viewing will be best in the western United States, NASA said in the release.
The moon won’t start to appear red — giving it the name blood moon — until it crosses into Earth’s full shadow at 6:48 a.m.
For Beaufort County, moonset is less than a half hour later, at 7:16 a.m., so that makes for a narrow window of opportunity.
Supermoon shines brightly over SC
In the hours before the eclipse, the moon will appear about 14 percent brighter than usual because it’s also a supermoon — a full moon during the moon’s perigree, which is its closest postion to Earth.
There was a supermoon in December and another earlier in January, but there won’t be another one until January 2019.
If that’s not enough, Wednesday morning also features a blue moon.
The term “blue moon” doesn’t have anything to do with the color of the moon, according to space.com.
A blue moon is the second full moon when there are two in one month. The first full moon of this month was Jan. 1.
There will be another blue moon in March, but after that, there won’t be two full moons in one month until October 2020.
Sometimes the third full moon in a season — three months — that has four full moons is also called a blue moon. The next seasonal blue moon will be in May 2019.
Hunting Island State Park is holding a Full Moon Lighthouse Climb starting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. Climbers must be at least 44 inches tall, and reservations are required by calling 843-838-7437. The fee is $25, and participants should bring a flashlight.
Watch the eclipse online
Weather permitting, starting at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, NASA TV and NASA.gov/nasalive will be broadcasting views of the moon from telescopes at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California; Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles; and the University of Arizona’s Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter Observatory.