It’s been a 30-year wait but Australian stargazers are in for a triple-treat tonight when they get to see a blue moon turn red.
Enthusiasts will be able to feast their eyes on a total lunar eclipse, which will turn the moon a brooding, dark red, coinciding with both a supermoon and a rare blue moon.
The last time it happened in Australia was December 30, 1983, the same year Bob Hawke was elected prime minister, but in other parts of the world, it’s been more like 150 years.
The phenomenon is set to have astronomers looking to the heavens across Australia.
‘Tonight, we have three lunar events happening simultaneously; the moon will be at perigee (the closest point in its elliptical orbit to Earth), it will be a blue moon for most of the world and – most spectacularly – it will be a total lunar eclipse,’ Penrith Observatory manager Raelene Sommers said.
‘The total lunar eclipse will be visible for all of Australia and parts of Europe, Asia and the United States. This is often referred to as a blood moon because the moon appears red. This is because the blue wavelengths of light are more scattered than the red, resulting in the reddish colour – this must have been scary for ancient humans that didn’t understand what was happening,’ she said in a statement.
The observatory, in Sydney’s west, will live stream the event.
Astrophysicist Alan Duffy says the random event is a rare trifecta, with the moon appearing bigger and a third brighter before it turns red when the moon passes into the Earth’s shadow and reflects the sun back at the Earth.
“It is not as ominous as the blood moon name might suggest”, Professor Duffy told the Nine Network.
The last time it happened in Australia was December 30, 1983, the same year Bob Hawke was elected prime minister.
Australians witness a total lunar eclipse about once every 2.8 years on average but the when it occurs with both a supermoon and blue moon the lunar event becomes a true rarity.
Prof Duffy said there are two critical phases to Wednesday night’s super blue Blood Moon and lunar eclipse.
The first is the moon rise, which will happen as the sun sets.
“Stand with your back to the sun and watch to the east as the moon rises and thanks to a psychological trick called the moon illusion, it will look enormous,” Prof Duffy said.
For NSW stargazers, the second event is the eclipse, which will occur at 11.50pm.
“It takes a few hours, though, so you can afford to get comfortable and enjoy the sight of the shadow beginning to move across the surface of the moon. ”
And then, from about 11:50pm onwards, it will be completely red and you can enjoy that sight for about an hour.”