New Year’s Eve often prompts people to gaze into the sky, whether it be for a fireworks display or simply to watch the big ball drop in Times Square, but the night of January 1st, 2018, will give you another reason to look up. In a happy coincidence, New Year’s Day will feature a supermoon, which will appear bigger and brighter than a typical full moon.
A supermoon is the term given to full moons which occur at the same time as the moon reaches its closest point to Earth in orbit. When that happens, the moon seems larger in the sky and also significantly brighter than it normally does. Only the most seasoned skywatchers would actually be able to notice the difference — supermoons are only around 7% to 14% brighter than normal, which is a relatively small increase — but it’s still a great opportunity for skywatchers to snap some photos and bask in the brighter-than-usual glow.
Supermoons occur due to the fact that the moon is in a slightly elliptical orbit with Earth, rather than a perfect circle. Because of this, the moon appears at varying distances each night, and when the full moon falls on the same day that it’s at its closest point (called perigee) we see a supermoon in the sky.
Even if you somehow miss the supermoon on the night of January 1st — that New Year’s Eve hangover will probably still be in full effect so we won’t hold it against you — another lunar treat is slated for later on in the month. On the night of January 30th, a blue moon will rise for much of the world, reaching fullness at approximately 8:27am EST on January 31st. A blue moon is the term given to a full moon that occurs twice in the same month and only happens about once every two-and-a-half to three years, though it typically doesn’t actually look any different than any other full moon.
However, this time around the blue moon will occur on the same night (or morning, depending on where you are) as a total lunar eclipse. The eclipse will begin at around 6:48am EST, and if it’s nighttime in your area you should be able to catch a glimpse of it. You can check location-specific times and see whether you’ll be able to actually view the eclipse using the Time And Date website.