Anchorage residents who are willing to get up early — or stay up late — are expected to get a clear view early Wednesday of a special celestial phenomenon called a “super flower blood moon.”
It sounds complicated and perhaps a bit fantastical.
Basically, three astronomical events are lining up early in the morning, giving the moon its lengthy, whimsical title.
One, a supermoon is when the moon swings closest to the Earth in its elliptical orbit.
Second, a flower moon comes from Native American traditions and means a full moon in the month of May — a time when the flowers appear.
Third, there’s the blood moon, which refers to the moon’s red color. It’s just another term for a lunar eclipse, said Omega Smith, who manages the planetarium at the University of Alaska Anchorage
“Every single lunar eclipse has a red color to it,” she said. “And we just recently started calling it a blood moon. It’s gotten people a lot more interested in lunar eclipses, which I think is great.”
The first lunar eclipse of the decade will appear Tue night as a Super Flower Blood Moon. Conditions will be clear for viewing across Southcentral with totality being at 3:18 a.m. Wed. Stay up late/get up early and enjoy the show! #AKwx pic.twitter.com/HXE5uy5FPV— NWS Anchorage (@NWSAnchorage) May 24, 2021
While it’s not uncommon for supermoons to coincide with lunar eclipses, the fact that it’s happening in May — adding “flower” to the title — makes it a bit more rare, said Smith.
Still, while “super flower blood moon” is pretty fun to say, it’s not an official astronomy term, she said. But she’s hoping it leads to many more Alaskans looking toward the sky tonight.
Especially because for residents of higher latitudes, the moon will appear low in the southern sky, making the super flower blood moon especially striking. And, skies are expected to be clear in the Anchorage area overnight — great news for moon-gazers.
“Because it’s so close to the horizon for us here in Anchorage, it actually gives another effect, it makes the moon look even more red and even larger because of the atmospheric effects on Earth,” said Smith.
The partial eclipse begins at 1:45 a.m. Wednesday. It will become a full eclipse around 3:11 a.m. and last for 15 minutes.
Smith recommends finding a high point with an unobstructed view of the southern horizon and grabbing a pair of binoculars.