When the “super blue blood moon” comes out early Wednesday morning, University of Colorado Boulder researcher Paul Hayne will be among a team of scientists eyeing it through a high-tech thermal camera at the Haleakala Observatory in Maui to get a unique view of the moon’s surface as its temperature plummets.
Three lunar events will come together for the rare super blue blood moon. It’s the second full moon in the month of January, making it a “blue moon.” It’s a “super moon,” meaning it appears larger and brighter because it occurs when the moon is near its closest point in its orbit of earth. In addition, a lunar eclipse – in which the moon passes into the earth's shadow – will occur, giving the moon a reddish color known as a “blood moon” and a rapidly cooling temperature.
“The whole character of the moon changes when we observe with a thermal camera during an eclipse,” said Hayne, of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at CU Boulder. “In the dark, many familiar craters and other features can’t be seen, and the normally non-descript areas around some craters start to glow because the rocks there are still warm.”
While viewers along the East Coast will see only the initial stages of the eclipse before moonset, according to NASA, those in the West and Hawaii will see most or all of the phases before dawn.
Hayne is available to discuss the super blue blood moon and what scientists can learn from it.