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Are you ready? Rare ‘Super Blood Wolf Moon’ is tonight

Total lunar eclipse, blood moon visible around the world

The blood moon was visible at different times in Australia, Africa, Asia, Europe and South America. The total eclipse lasted nearly two hours, with the entire event lasting closer to four hours.
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The blood moon was visible at different times in Australia, Africa, Asia, Europe and South America. The total eclipse lasted nearly two hours, with the entire event lasting closer to four hours.

It may sound like something out of “Twilight,” but this lunar event is the real deal.

It’s called a “Super Blood Wolf Moon,” a lunar eclipse that Wichita is expected to have quite a clear view of Sunday evening.

Let’s unpack that jumble of words.

A “supermoon” is a full moon that appears larger than usual in the sky, because the moon is in its closest proximity to earth. So, in lay terms, a really big full moon.

A “blood moon” is a term used to describe when the moon appears blood-red in a total eclipse, because of light from Earth that gets refracted onto the moon. There’s nothing especially significant astronomically about a “blood moon,” other than it looks cool. Over the years there have been a variety of superstitious theories floating around claiming that blood moons portend the end times — a theory with no scientific proof.

Finally, a “wolf moon” simply a term used to describe the first full moon of the year in January. Each full moon of the year has a name like this — for example, February is the “snow moon,” June is the “strawberry moon” and September is the “harvest moon.”

All those designations combine to describe one eclipse with a triple-adjective modifier for the ages.

A lunar eclipse happens when the moon passes directly through the Earth’s shadow, blocking out most all of the light from the sun.

North America is in prime position to view the total eclipse this time around, according to NASA.

The eclipse is expected to start around 8:30 p.m. Sunday and last until just after 1:45 a.m. Monday, with the prime viewing window (totality) expected between 10:41 and 11:43 p.m. Central.

The eclipse can be viewed with the naked eye — unlike a solar eclipse, no special glasses are needed to look at a lunar eclipse.

But if you’d prefer to see it through a telescope, a couple local observatories are hosting events.

Lake Afton Public Observatory, 25000 W. 39th Street South in Goddard, will be open for lunar-eclipse viewing starting at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

Guests can view the eclipse through the observatory’s telescopes through midnight. Admission to the observatory is $8 for adults, $6 for children and $20 for a family (parents and their children). Setting up a telescope outside the observatory is free, but entering the building does cost.

The Cosmosphere in Hutchinson is hosting a free lunar-eclipse event starting at 9:30 p.m. Sunday, giving people the chance to view it through a 16-inch-diameter telescope set up outside. People can also bring their own telescopes to set up on the grassy parking lot south of the Cosmosphere, 1100 N. Plum Street in Hutchinson.

Space-science educators from the Cosmosphere will be in attendance to answer any questions.

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Matt Riedl covers arts and entertainment news for the Wichita Eagle and has done so since 2015. He maintains the Keeper of the Plans blog on Facebook, dedicated to keeping Wichitans abreast of all things fun.

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