Watch the super blue moon turn into a blood moon. The fun starts about 4 a.m. Wednesday.
Watch the super blue moon turn into a blood moon. The fun starts about 4 a.m. Wednesday.
Rob Glover / Flickr

Everything You Need to Know About Wednesday's Super Blue Blood Moon

Yes, nature robbed Arizona of the total solar eclipse in August, but Wednesday's "super blue blood" lunar eclipse will be worth a look for you early risers.

That's if the clouds don't get in the way. More on that in a minute.

Look for the moon in the western sky. Earth's shadow will begin forming the eclipse at 3:51 a.m. Wednesday for Arizona viewers. Totality — when the moon takes on its "blood" color — begins at 5:51 a.m., reaches maximum effect at 6:29 a.m., and ends at 7:07 a.m.. The moon will be partially shaded when it sets about 7:30 a.m.

Total lunar eclipses occur when the darkest part of earth's shadow falls on the moon. It's true they're not as fun as total solar eclipses, which happen when the moon completely blots out the sun. And lunar eclipses are visible far more often — usually about once or twice a year. Arizona's next total solar eclipse will be on July 17, 2205.

Yet lunar eclipses are wondrous events in their own right, especially at maximum redness. Hardcore skywatchers, of course, already have their telescopes and hot chocolate mix ready to go for a pre-work visual treat.

Here are the facts behind the hyperbolic name:

Super: The moon appears bigger because it's closer to the earth than usual.

Blue: It won't be blue — this just means it's the second full moon of the month.

Blood: The moon will be reddish-orange from the eclipse.

Nothing too complicated. But having all these things happen at once hasn't happened in the United States since 1866.

"By far the best part is the blood moon bit," said Patrick Young, an associate professor with Arizona State University's Earth and Sky Exploration school. "This is a fairly deep eclipse. The color will be very prominent."

While the moon will be a few percent brighter and bigger in its "super" position, that's a "very subtle thing," he said.

Young said he has nothing special planned for the pre-dawn show, but plans to "pop outside" several times as the eclipse runs its course.

If you're in Tempe and want a closer look at the moon, ASU will have a telescope set up from 5:30 to 7:30 a.m. on the top floor of the Apache Boulevard parking garage at Apache Boulevard and Normal Avenue.

Now for the possible bad news: Clouds.

IPhone's weather app shows clouds at 4 a.m., then none at 5 a.m. Travis Wilson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Phoenix, confirmed the reading.

The high clouds seen over Phoenix on Tuesday will be sticking around until late into the night, finally clearing up around 4 to 5. They'll clear from west to east, which should be convenient for moon-watching at that time, he noted.

As long as the clouds stay on that schedule, no problema. But "the exact timing is up in the air," Wilson said. The clouds could clear a couple of hours earlier. Or they could stay until a couple of hours later — putting them in the way of clear eclipse viewing.

"I hope it works out," he said.

Northern and western Arizona viewers should have less worry about clouds, Wilson said, but the sky in Tucson and southern Arizona could be less clear.

Young didn't sound worried when told of the weather report.

"If it's just thin, high clouds or partly cloudy, you'll probably be okay," he said.

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