Super-bloody, howling-great total lunar eclipse should be visible Sunday night

Vancouver skies will be mostly clear to watch the last total lunar eclipse for more than two years

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      It's a supermoon. It's a blood moon. It's a wolf moon. It's a total eclipse of the moon.

      Actually, it's all four.

      The last total eclipse of the moon for more than two years happens Sunday (January 20) evening, and weather forecasts point to Vancouverites being able to get a good view, with mostly clear skies projected for the weekend.

      A total lunar eclipse happens when the sun, Earth, and moon line up, with our planet in the middle and temporarily blocking all sunlight from reaching the moon's surface.

      Wikimedia Commons

      It's also the first full moon of 2019, and it is what has become commonly referred to as a supermoon, meaning that Earth's satellite is at just about its closest approach (perigee) to our planet in its elliptic orbit. As a result, the moon will appear about 30 percent brighter and 14 percent larger than a usual full, or new, moon. (The moon will actually be 357, 300 kilometres away.)

      The first full moon of the year is sometimes also called the wolf moon (or great-spirit moon), ostensibly because wolves would often be heard howling outside North American Indigenous villages during this time of winter (although the term's origins are unclear).

      The total lunar eclipse will be visible from all of North and South America, Europe, and Western Africa.

      Darkest region shows where total eclipse will be visible.
      U.S. Naval Observatory

      And because during a total lunar eclipse the moon often takes on a colour ranging anywhere from coppery reddish-brown to deep red, it is often called a blood moon. (For an explanation of exactly why that happens, go here.)

      Keith Burns/NASA/JPL

      The entire eclipse, divided into partial and totality phases, takes several hours. The totality phase, when the moon is completely obscured by Earth's shadow, will last for 62 minutes, from 8:41 p.m. to 9:43 p.m. (Pacific Time). The greatest point of the eclipse will take place at 9:12 p.m.

      Look to the eastern skies, about 40 degrees above the horizon, starting at 6:36 p.m., when the moon will first start to dim. The whole process ends at 11:48 p.m.