By Shannon Schmoll
During the early hours of Jan. 31, there will be a full moon, a total lunar eclipse, a blue moon and a supermoon—all at the same time. None of these things is really all that unusual by itself. What is rare is that they're happening all together on one day.
What Makes the Moon Look Full?
Like the earth, half the moon is illuminated by the sun at any one time. The moon orbits around the earth and as a result we see different amounts of the lit-up side.
The phases of the moon visible from Earth are related to its revolution around our planet. Orion 8, CC BY-SA
A full moon is when we see its entire lit-up side. This occurs every 29.5 days, when the moon is directly opposite the sun relative to the earth. Jan. 31 will be our next full moon in the lunar cycle.
What's a Lunar Eclipse?
The moon's orbit is tilted by about 5 degrees relative to the earth's orbit. So, most of the time the moon ends up a little above or below the path Earth follows as it revolves around the sun. But twice in each lunar cycle, the moon does cross into our planet's orbital plane.
A lunar eclipse happens when the moon is completely in the Earth's shadow. Tomruen, CC BY-SA
If that crossing corresponds to a full moon, the moon will pass into the earth's shadow, resulting in a total lunar eclipse. Since the moon needs to be behind the earth, relative to the sun, a lunar eclipse can only happen on a full moon.
To see the phenomenon, you need to be on the night side of the earth; this eclipse will be visible mostly in Asia, Australia, the Pacific and North America. But don't worry if you miss it—lunar eclipses happen on average a couple times a year. The next one visible in North America will be on Jan. 21, 2019.
A Blue Moon That Looks Red
When a lunar eclipse happens, the moon appears to darken as it moves into the earth's shadow, called the umbra. When the moon is all the way in shadow it doesn't go completely dark; instead, it looks red due to a process called Rayleigh scattering. The gas molecules of Earth's atmosphere scatter bluer wavelengths of light from the sun, while redder wavelengths pass straight through.
This is why we have blue skies and red sunrises and sunsets. When the sun is high in the sky, red light passes straight through to the ground while blue light is scattered in every direction, making it more likely to hit your eye when you look around. During a sunset, the angle of the sun is lower in the sky and that red light instead passes directly into your eyes while the blue light is scattered away from your line of sight.
A super blood moon tinted red by scattered light GSFC, CC BY
In the case of a lunar eclipse, the sunlight that makes it around Earth passes through our atmosphere and is refracted toward the moon. Blue light is filtered out, leaving the moon looking reddish during an eclipse.
On top of it all, the Jan. 31 full moon is also a considered a blue moon. There are two different definitions of blue moon. The first is any time a second full moon occurs in a single month. Since there are 29.5 days between two full moons, we usually only end up with one per month. With most months longer than 29.5 days, it occasionally works out that we have two full moons. We already had one on the first of this month and our second will be Jan. 31, making it a blue moon. With this definition our next blue moon is in March, leaving February with no full moon this year.
The second definition of a blue moon states it's the third moon in a season in which there are four moons, which happens about every 2.7 years. We'll only have three this winter, so the Jan. 31 full moon won't be blue by this definition. Stargazers will need to wait until May 18, 2019, for a blue moon that fits this older, original definition.
A Supersized Supermoon
Finally, to add the cherry on top, this will also be a supermoon. The moon's orbit is not perfectly circular, meaning its distance from Earth varies as it goes through one cycle. The closest point in its orbit is called the perigee. A full moon that happens near perigee is called a supermoon by some.
This happened with our full moon earlier this month on Jan. 1 and will again on Jan. 31.
Its proximity makes it seem a little bit bigger and brighter than usual, but that's the extent of its effects on Earth. The distinction is usually hard to notice unless you're looking at two pictures side by side.
Appearance of an 'average' moon versus a supermoon Marcoaliaslama, CC BY-SA
There are long traditions of giving different moons names. This being a bigger, brighter, reddish-looking blue moon, perhaps we should call the next full moon the super purple moon. The moon will not actually appear purple, nor will have it a cape—but Jan. 31 is a great time to gaze up and enjoy the night sky.
Why Eclipses Were Seen as Omens in the Ancient World https://t.co/T8MPtAhd85 @TheScienceGuy @guardianscience— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1502575808.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
The November supermoon has gained attention around the world for its beauty, but is also bringing high water to flood-prone regions from South Florida to Maine.
The moon, which follows an elliptical orbit, is at its closest approach to the Earth since 1948. The full moon, in alignment with the Earth and sun, combines with the unusually close distance to create a strong gravitational pull.
4 Astronomical Events You Don't Want to Miss in November via @EcoWatch https://t.co/dg4wxYQiiX @sierraclub #supermoon @NatGeo @BillNye @NASA— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1478092398.0
In South Florida, where king tides routinely flood low-lying areas, the National Weather Service issued a coastal flood advisory through 4 p.m. Wednesday. The highest tides are expected for Tuesday and Wednesday. Coconut Grove already had six inches of water in the street by Sunday night.
#supermoon affecting high tides and causing flooding in Jax. https://t.co/CWzNcofP8Z— Amber Krycka (@Amber Krycka)1479048795.0
Further up the coast, Jacksonville Beach and Saint Augustine began to flood yesterday as well. Weather.com meteorologist Chris Dolce warned that coastal areas in Georgia and South Carolina could be at risk.
Flooding in the Boston area is expected, where the highest tides will come on Tuesday around 11 a.m. Maine is on alert as well. Rain and easterly winds are forecast across the Northeast tomorrow, exacerbating the effects of the the moon and tides.
The sea level along coastal Massachusetts has risen four inches since 1950. Along South Florida, seas may rise 10 inches by 2030 from their 1992 levels. Flooding events in Miami Beach have jumped 400 percent in the past 10 years.
During October's king tides, Charleston, Savannah and Miami all experienced flooding. It has become routine for saltwater to invade homes and basements and parking garages in South Florida. Fish can be seen swimming in the streets during king tides. Roads get washed out.
During a campaign debate in October, Sen. Marco Rubio denied that climate change has anything to do with sea level rise or Florida's regular flooding events. Now re-elected for another six-year term, he has refused to meet with 15 Florida mayors who asked in January for a meeting to discuss the climate change risks they are facing.
Rubio Denies Climate Change as Florida’s King Tides Inundate Streets https://t.co/tsAIiyRpiw @greenwombat @CeresNews— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1476911424.0
Scientists expect the supermoon to make things even worse.
"That additional gravitational pull has caused our high tides to be a little bit higher than they would have been without that supermoon," said Dr. Tiffany Troxler, director of Florida International University's Sea Level Solutions Center, in an interview with CBS News.
Photographs of the supermoon have been posted since last night as skywatchers enjoy the show. The next time the moon gets this close will be in 2034.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By Kelly Kizer Whitt, SIERRA Magazine
The full moon in November will be super-sized, the largest of 2016. "Supermoon" is a recently coined term for when the moon is full and at perigee—its closest point to the earth in its elliptical orbit. Perigee will take place on Nov. 14 when the moon passes about 356,000 km from our planet. The full moon peaks less than three hours later, wowing viewers and causing larger than normal tides along the coast.
Three minor meteor showers, the South Taurids, North Taurids and Leonids, occur in November. If you're a night owl, you may spot some fireballs around midnight between Nov. 4 and 5 from the South Taurids, and some slow-moving bright meteors around midnight on Nov. 11 and 12 from the North Taurids. The Leonid meteor shower is better for early birds who are up an hour or more before sunrise on Nov. 17.
A Canopy of Stars
We'll all feel like night owls once the clock changes back to Standard Time on Nov. 6. For many in the U.S., the sun will set before 5 p.m. Let's face it: the long hours of darkness can be gloomy. But instead of hiding under the covers, bundle up and step outside to look at the brilliant sky of late fall. The crisp air will revive you, as will the clear view of stars more than a thousand light-years away. Look to the northeast to see the Capella star flashing and flaming. This vibrant beacon is a mere 42 light-years away.
Planets on the Move
In the beginning of November, Venus mingles brightly with Saturn in the southwestern sky. A crescent moon will pass the two planets from Nov. 1 to 3 and then scoot to the south, passing in the vicinity of Mars on Nov. 5. By mid-month, Saturn will drop lower in the horizon, crossing paths with Mercury around Nov. 25. Mercury will be rising away from the sun as Saturn sinks. On the last day of November, the crescent moon pops back into view in the west not far from Mercury.
Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA Magazine.