An unusual set of circumstances will combine in the early hours of Monday morning in the skies above the northern hemisphere, resulting in a phenomenon called a super blood wolf moon.
A total lunar eclipse will give an apparent reddish colour to the lunar surface – known as a blood moon. At the same time, the moon will be slighty closer to Earth than normal and appear slightly bigger and brighter than usual – a phenomenon called a supermoon.
In January, the full moon is also sometimes known as the wolf moon or great spirit moon – hence the super blood wolf moon.
Astronomers and skygazers are particularly interested in this year’s blood moon, as it is the last of its kind for two years and lasts for more than an hour.
“We’re going into this unusual lull in total lunar eclipses over the next couple of years,” said Tom Kerss, an astronomer from the Royal Observatory Greenwich.
“So this is a really good one to catch as it’s going to be a long time before you catch another one like this – we will have other lunar eclipses, we just won’t have anything quite as spectacular until May 2021.”
Weather permitting, the total lunar eclipse should be visible from the UK for a reasonable amount of time.
If the skies are clear, the entire eclipse will also be visible in North and South America, as well as Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Portugal and the French and Spanish coasts. The rest of Europe, as well as Africa, will have partial viewing before the moon sets. Asia, Australia and New Zealand will miss out.
The eclipse is set to begin at 2.36am in the UK on Monday 21 January, though observers are unlikely to see anything until much later in the morning.
The best time to catch the maximum eclipse is around 5.12am, when the moon will be completely submerged within the Earth’s shadow.
“The moon will be red between about 4.40am and about 6.45am, so it’s actually more than an hour that you have to observe this blood moon phenomenon where the moon is totally eclipsed,” Kerss said.
The Royal Museums Greenwich will also host a Facebook Live event from 4am, where viewers can watch as events unfold.
A blood moon last occurred in July 2018, though clouds largely obscured the celestial phenomenon in the UK.
This will be the first of three supermoons this year. The upcoming supermoon will be about 357,300km away. The 19 February supermoon will be a bit closer and one in March will be the farthest.
Press Association and Associated Press contributed to this report