Lunar Eclipse in the New Year: January Sky Watching

Discovery Place Nature

Welcome to the latest edition of Searching the Sky, Discovery Place's monthly sky watching and astronomy blog.

January has some pretty cool astronomical observation opportunities and for this year, there will be a decent meteor shower, a supermoon, blood moon and even a lunar eclipse!

To start January, there will be a meteor shower called the Quadrantids meteor shower which will begin on January 1 and run through January 10 but will peak on January 3-4. The shower is from an extinct comet, and because it occurs at the beginning of January, there will only be a thin crescent of a moon, so the sky will be nice and dark. Although it emanates in the area of the constellation Bootes, this particular shower can be seen anywhere in the sky and is best seen after midnight, where 40 meteors an hour is not uncommon.

The full moon will occur on January 20 and January 21. This full moon is called a supermoon because it appears to be much larger and brighter, due to being at its closest point to Earth for this month (perigee). There is also a total lunar eclipse which will begin on January 20 at 11:40 p.m. and will last almost an hour, making it possibly the longest occurring total eclipse for this century. It is a total lunar eclipse, but instead of being blacked out, the moon moves into Earth’s shadow and it temporarily darkens the moon.

This darkening often takes on a rusty red hue, civilizations across the world interpreted it to be the color of blood, hence a blood moon. Throughout history, this blood moon has caused fear, prophecy and the spawning of legends and myths to explain. Of course, we now know what causes this effect and armed with knowledge, we can fearlessly go out into the dark of night and look up in wonder. With hopefully clear skies, we will be treated to some amazing astronomical shows in January!