The elegantly named Super Blood Wolf Moon: What does it really mean?

Britt Donahue – Photo Editor

If you happened to be outside and looking up last Monday night, you were lucky enough to witness a rare lunar phenomenon called a “Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse.” But you also may have asked yourself: “Why the heck is it called a Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse?”

Let’s start with the question: what do wolves have to do with anything? For much of history, time was tracked using the lunar calendar, and different names were associated with different times of the year. The January moon is called Wolf Moon, named after hungry packs of wolves howling in the cold winter.

Next, what is a lunar eclipse? A lunar eclipse occurs only during the full moon when the Earth, sun, and moon are all in perfect alignment. During this time, the Earth’s shadow is cast across the surface of the moon, leaving the moon cast in darkness.

Okay, well why was the moon red? This is related to a similar question, why is the sky blue? Sunlight appears white, but it is actually made up of all the colors of the rainbow. These colors travel on different wavelengths, which become scattered by the various gas molecules that make up Earth’s atmosphere. Since blue waves are the shortest, more scattering occurs and causes the sky to appear blue to the human eye. This is the same phenomenon that causes both sunsets and blood moons to appear red.  While the moon is in shadow, some sunlight still manages to sneak through and enter Earth’s atmosphere, but it has to travel farther through the atmosphere, allowing the longer red waves more time to reach our eyes.

And finally: Super Moon. What does that mean? A supermoon occurs when the moon appears significantly larger than normal, due to its being closer to Earth. The moon’s orbit around Earth is not a perfect circle, so during the month, its distance varies. A supermoon occurs when its perigee (closest distance to Earth) coincides with the full moon! Supermoons usually happen about three or four times a year.

The next total lunar eclipse visible in North America will occur on May 16, 2022, so mark your calendars now!