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A RARE CELESTIAL TRIPLE EVENT

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A historic event of blue moon had happened in western countries, 150 years ago but in Asian countries it is an event once in 35 years. Although in the western countries,the blue moon was seen in 1866, the Asians witness it just 35 year ago in 1982. We witnessed the “Super Blue Blood Moon” at the Department of Geography, Bharathidasan University, Tiruchirappalli.

The Department of Geography organised an event on Wednesday, January31, 2018 to see the rare celestial event – Super Blue Blood Moon with the aid of Celestron Astro Master 130 EQ Telescope. The faculty members, research scholars, and students of Geography Department, and students from other Departments of Bharathidasan University also participated and enriched themselves with lunar eclipse through the telescope.

With eagerness, we waited to see each phase of the moon’s face from the red tint to glowing pearly white to appear on the eastern horizon. Data from NASA showed that stargazers in India will get to experience this rare event on the evening of January 31, as the moon rises. The total lunar eclipse was pronounced to start in India from 4:21 p.m. and last till 7:37 p.m.by IST, whereas at Tiruchirappalliwe saw the moon show up at local time by 6.23p.m.; the time delay was caused mainly because of longitudinal difference and curvature of the earth.

With the help of the Telescope’s 20x lens we could see the total lunar eclipses post phases clearly. First, the moon appeared as a red curved spot, which was visible to the naked eye itself. Then the moon developed as a crescent with red shaded colour from the first phase ‘umbra’ – a region of complete shadowresulting from total obstruction of light. Later by 7.16p.m. the moon again emerged with a silver lining at the south-eastern corner of the moon from the second phase ‘penumbra’– a fringe region of partial shadow around an umbra. Lastly, moon rose into its full brightness into the full moon by 8.25p.m.feasting the eyes of the beholders. The super blue blood moon was 14 percent bigger and 30 times brighter than the normal full moons.

The name ‘supermoon’ was first coined by an astrologer, Richard Nolle in 1979. A Supermoon is the event at which moon is nearer to the earth and appears slightly larger in the skyon‘perigee’–it is the closest point to the Earth. Since the Moon’s orbit is elliptical, one side (the apogee) is about 50,000 km farther from Earth than the other (the perigee). A full moon occurs every 29.5 days, but blue moon is an event at which thirteen full moons appear in a calendar years instead of twelve full moons.Two full moons occurring in acalendar month of January 2018.The total lunar eclipse occurs at least twice a year, at which the moon is engulfed in the shadow of theEarth, positioning itself between the Sun and the Moon. The red colour of the moon is due to the earth’s atmosphere which refracts the sun’s light causing an indirect red light on the moon.The special thing about this Super Blue Moon is that italso occurred during a total lunar eclipse.

As the saying goes ‘Once in a Blue Moon’, we witnessed the rare glimpses of the triple event; a supermoon, blue moon and a total lunar eclipse. According to the NASA, the next super blue blood moon is expected to happen on December 31, 2028, though it would not be quite as large since the moon will not be at its closest point to Earth. Another will happen on January 31, 2037, a total of 17 hours before perigee.

Special Moon Events in 2018

February 2018: Black Moon (no Full Moon in calendar month)

31 March: Blue Moon (second Full Moon in single calendar month, two blue moons in a year is a rare event)

13 July:Super New Moon

27 July – 28 July: Total Lunar Eclipse visible properly at New Delhi

28 July:Micro Full Moon

11 August: Super New Moon

Still to come in 2018 … a series of new moon / supermoons will occur when the new moon closely pair ups with perigee on July 13 and August 11, per the NASA’s announcement.

Reported by Lokeshwaran, M.Sc-Geography (Integrated)- student of Bharathidasan University. Script and Photo courtesy : Department of Geography – Bharathidasan University, Trichy

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