Once In A Blue Moon

Lunar Spectacle Was The First In 150 Years

The blue supermoon eclipse sets Wednesday morning seen from Roanoke Mountain in Virginia. AP photo

Wednesday’s super blue blood moon happened because all the right circumstances aligned in just the right way.

The phenomenon of a blue moon, a super moon and a lunar eclipse happened all at the same time, providing an interesting celestial occurrence that hasn’t happened in over 150 years, according to Gary Nelson, Martz Kohl Observatory president.

Nelson said the conditions had to be perfect for those three things to happen at the same time. Yet, the conditions for viewing were not perfect for the local area. He said when he awoke the clouds had rolled in, so he was unable to get a glimpse. Also, the moon set before the eclipse was finished, so hopeful viewers in the area were unable to fully see it. He said the appearance of a blood moon and a super moon has to do with the tilt of the Earth, the angle of the sun and how close the moon is to the earth.

He said the moon appears enlarged at that time because the atmosphere acts as a magnifier.

“It’s a phenomenon of optics,” he said. “That’s not the actual size of the moon.”

Nelson said at some point, people may not be able to see lunar eclipses because the moon is slowly moving away from the Earth. “The moon is moving away from us about an inch a year,” he said. “It’ll be so far out, the light will go around it.”

Nelson added another tidbit of interesting trivia: the moon is not actually a pale white or beige color, but rather a gun metal grey.

“We can show you that at the observatory,” he said. “What you’re seeing is the light reflected off of it.”

For those who are curious about skywatching and astronomy, Nelson said someone is at the observatory at every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. Group visits can be made by appointment. Nelson said visitors should call and find out about the viewing conditions before making the trek.

“We can’t predict clear nights or good nights,” he said.

For more information, visit www.martzobservatory.org or call 569-3689. The observatory is located at 176 Robbin Hill Road in Frewsburg.