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New year, blue Moon
30 December 2017, 12:41 | Kenneth Drake
NASA Bill Ingalls
It may seem like the 31st's moon is the lunar spectacle to keep your eyes on, but don't forget about the one on New Year's Day - it could be a great way to commemorate the start of 2018.
The new year will ring in with a pair of wonderful celestial sights, with supermoons that will be visible on the first and last of January.
Blue Moons aren't unique as they happen around once every 2.7 years because the number of days in a new moon to new moon is a bit less than the usual calendar month. The first appeared on December 3, 2017; this one is on January 1; and we'll see the third of the trio on January 31, 2018. A supermoon occurs when the moon becomes full on the same day that it reaches its perigree, the point in the moon's elliptical orbit when it is closest to Earth.
But that's not the only label of January 31's moon - that full moon also happens to be the second full moon of the month, an event that is often referred to as a "blue moon".
After that, another supermoon will start on the night of January 30 but won't hit its full phase until around 8:30AM EST on January 31.
Supermoons occur due to the fact that the moon is in a slightly elliptical orbit with Earth, rather than a ideal circle.
Skywatchers in Western North America and Eastern Asia will also be able to catch a total lunar eclipse that evening, as the moon passes into the Earth's shadow. Another nickname will come into play here, as totally eclipsed moons are sometimes called "blood moons".
"The lunar eclipse on January 31 will be visible during moonset", Noah Petro of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center explained in a news release.
However, there are some around the globe who won't experience it until the morning of February 1, which means it technically will not be a blue moon for them.
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