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'Super blood wolf moon' was last total lunar eclipse until 2021

By
Brooks Hays
Earth's moon hovers in the skies over Melbourne, Fla., as it is eclipsed through Sunday night and Monday morning. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI
Earth's moon hovers in the skies over Melbourne, Fla., as it is eclipsed through Sunday night and Monday morning. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 20 (UPI) -- Viewers in South and North America witnessed a rare event Sunday night -- a super blood wolf moon, a special kind of total lunar eclipse.

The moon entered Earth's shadow at 10:34 p.m. EST, getting darker and redder as it moved into the heart of the shadow. The total eclipse peaked at 12:12 p.m. EST -- the maximum eclipse. It lasted 3.5 hours, with totality lasting 63 minutes.

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Total lunar eclipses happen when the sun, Earth and the moon are in alignment and the full moon passes through Earth's shadow. The moon doesn't disappear. Instead, it darkens and turns an orangish red.

Light with shorter wavelengths on the blue end of the spectrum, passing along each side of Earth, is scattered by atmospheric particles. Light with longer wavelengths on the red end of the spectrum passes through the atmosphere mostly undisrupted, reflecting off the lunar surface.

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If the moon's orbital plane was aligned with Earth's orbital plane around the sun, every full moon would bring a total lunar eclipse. That's not the case.

"Most of the time, the moon's slightly tilted orbit brings it above or below Earth's shadow," according to NASA.

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As AccuWeather reports, much of the United States was plagued by poor weather, harming viewing conditions across the Northeast, Midwest and Pacific Northwest.

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For viewers thwarted by rain, snow and clouds, several online streams offered live coverage of the eclipse, including timeanddate.com and Slooh.

All lunar eclipses are blood moons. The moniker refers to the moon's red tint during the eclipse. The moon is a wolf moon because it is a full moon in January. It is a super moon because the full moon coincides with the satellite's pedigree, its closest approach to Earth.

Solar and lunar eclipses always come in pairs. Earlier this month, a partial solar eclipse cast lunar shadows across Asia and Alaska.

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The next total lunar eclipse won't occur until May 26, 2021, but several partial solar and lunar eclipses will occur between now and then.

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