Rare super blue blood moon visible in Virginia Wednesday morning

The rare celestial phenomenon will take place overnight Tuesday

BLACKSBURG, Va. – A rare event for sky-watchers is taking place throughout the United States Tuesday night, and clear forecasts in our area means the super blue blood moon will be visible for many in Southwest Virginia.

While the title is somewhat of a tongue twister, the event itself is basically a lunar eclipse with very good timing.

As Nahum Arav, a professor of astrophysics at Virginia Tech explains, a super moon is when the moon is at its closest distance to the Earth, making it look about 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than full moons that are further away.

The second part of the trifecta-phenomenon is the blue moon, which means the second full moon to occur in a single month. The first full moon of this month was on New Year's Day. 

Finally, the blood moon refers to the color the moon turns during a total lunar eclipse. This happens whenever the earth passes between the sun and the moon. The light filtering through the Earth's atmosphere reflects on the moon, giving it a reddish hue.

On their own, Arav says each of these events is pretty common, but combined-- a super blue blood moon is an extremely rare occurrence. The last time a super moon, a blood moon and a blue moon all lined up on the same date was in 1866, just one year after the Civil War ended.

The timing of this special event is even better, as it will be taking place in the early hours of Wednesday morning as many people are already awake and starting their day.

"People will already be getting up for work," says Arav. "If from your house you can see the western horizon, you will see the moon and you will see it being eaten and having a shadow on it. The maximum we'll see is about half of the moon will be eclipsed here."

In Southwest Virginia, we'll be able to see the super blue blood moon best on Wednesday morning. The eclipse is set to start just before 7 a.m. and last until the sun comes up and the moon is no longer visible.