A rare trio of lunar events will take place Wednesday morning, and all of North America, including Flagstaff, will get to see the action unfold.
At least those of us willing to wake up early for it.
Over the span of just more than an hour between about 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., the moon will take on a reddish color as it goes through a total solar eclipse. This so-called "blood" moon also happens to be the second full moon of the month, earning it the additional label of a blue moon. On top of that, this full moon is deemed a supermoon because its orbit brings it slightly closer to Earth, making it appear bigger than the others.
Tuesday is the day the moon will actually be closest to Earth and the best time to view it will be just as it rises, but that will be at 5:19 p.m. — earlier than sunset in Arizona. On Wednesday the moon will be a bit farther away but will rise at 6:28 p.m. which will make for better viewing.
The eclipse will begin much later at 3:50 a.m. Wednesday and will end when the moon sets at about 7:30 a.m. The total eclipse, when the moon will be completely covered by Earth’s shadow, will happen between 5:50 a.m. and 7 a.m. Wednesday.
The moon appears as a reddish, pinkish color due to the way red and orange wavelengths pass through Earth’s atmosphere while the other shorter wavelengths are scattered.
Against the black pre-dawn sky, the rosy coloring appears especially vibrant, said Abe Snider, an astrophotographer who teaches daytime and nighttime photography workshops.
Those who want to see what some call the “super blue blood moon” should head to a place with a clear view of the western horizon, Snider said.
Sunset Crater, anywhere north of the San Francisco Peaks, Buffalo Park would all be great places for moongazing early Wednesday morning, he said. Yavapai Point would be a good spot on the South Rim, though another good option is to simply climb on top of your roof, he said.
To know exactly where the moon will be at a certain time while standing in a specific location, Snider recommended an app called The Photographer’s Ephemeris, which is also available as a website, as well as an app called Star Walk. The Photographer’s Ephemeris allows the user to pick a spot on a map or use their current location, then fast forward in time to see where the moon and stars will be, Snider said.
He said the compass degree for the super moon rise is about 68 degrees east northeast on Tuesday evening. The moon will set Wednesday morning, just after the eclipse, at 283 degrees west northwest.
As the sun lines up perfectly with the Earth and then moon for the eclipse, scientists will make observations from a telescope in Hawaii, while also collecting data from NASA's moon-circling Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, launched in 2009.
Just like the total solar eclipse in the U.S. last August cooled the Earth's surface, a lunar eclipse cools the moon's surface. It's this abrupt cooling — from the heat of direct sunlight to essentially a deep freeze — that researchers will be studying.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.