On September 27, 2015 NASA confirmed that there was a Super Moon at approximately 10:11 which lasted about one hour and twelve minutes. The Moon gets its nickname “Super Moon” because the Moon is at its periapsis (the closest point in an object’s orbit to the parent body) in its orbit, also known as perigee, where it is 31,000 miles closer to earth than at its apoapsis (the farthest point in an object’s orbit to the parent body), this happens because the orbit is not a circle, but is elliptical. A Supermoon happens when there is a full moon at the periapsis. This orbital change causes the moon to become 14% larger and 30% brighter than it would on an average night. During this phenomenon, the Moon turns a blood red color earning its nickname “Blood Moon.”
How does our Moon turn red exactly? The Moon changes its color for many different reasons. The Moon turns a blood red shade when our planet moves between the Sun and the Moon. This creates a shadow which cuts off the Moon’s light from the Sun. When the Moon becomes darker due to the shadow of the Earth, it takes in less light which and causes it to emit a reddish glow instead of vanishing from our sky. The Moon emits this reddish glow due to a phenomenon called Rayleigh scattering. Rayleigh scattering is the act of scattering light and electromagnetic radiation. The color of the Moon also has to do with Earth’s Atmosphere, the Sun, and the Ozone Layer as well. In the beginning of a Supermoon or a Blood Moon, the Moon will become slightly blue due to gasses in the Earth’s Ozone Layer. The Ozone Layer scatters the red light emitted from the Blood Moon while absorbing some of the blue light and reflecting it back toward the moon causing it to look slightly blue before the Eclipse.
In addition a few days before the Supermoon occurred, NASA decided to run their LRO spacecraft during the eclipse. The only problem they encountered was that their spacecraft was powered from the Sun which they would not have had during the Lunar Eclipse. This was a serious problem for NASA because they were putting their spacecraft at risk to gather scientific data about how our solar system worked. NASA’s LRO spacecraft is at risk because when the Lunar Eclipse started NASA engineers would disable most functions of the spacecraft. The reason for this was to conserve power and to start the warm up process as a result of the massive temperature drop from the lack of sunlight. In April 2014, NASA’s Environmental Explorer (LADEE) barely scraped by during a lunar eclipse due to the massive temperature drop of 280 degrees Fahrenheit and the lack of sunlight. The main reason NASA risked their LRO spacecraft was to gather further information of the moon’s surface during an Eclipse and mainly to explain how the moon’s surface cools on a normal lunar night to compare to the eclipse.
When the moon moves closer to the Earth it is believed to cause potential natural disasters due to the moon’s effect on gravity. Dr.Scott a professor in Astronomy at Sonoma State explains “There is no affect on Earth because the moon is still in its regular orbit except the eclipse makes it appear closer to normal to our planet.” Dr. Scott claims that the Supermoons are not the cause of natural disasters and that it just “Scares people that don’t expect it.” People believe that Supermoons cause damage to Earth because of the odd appearance of the moon and a disaster that occurred 1-2 weeks after the moon’s appearance in 2011 at the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Currently there has been no evidence relating to the Super Moon causing the disaster but more evidence supporting that the Supermoon cannot cause disasters on Earth.
The next Supermoon eclipse won’t be coming until 2033, the next thirty three years. Supermoon eclipses are a rare occasion that can only be seen a few times in a lifetime due to having to wait for the orbit of the moon and Earth to line up just right causing the eclipse. Next time the Supermoon eclipse shows up make sure to see it or be prepared to wait 33+ years all over again.