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Local News

Look, Up in the Sky: It's "Super Moon!"

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Photo via Flickr// Freedom II Andres
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On Sunday evening and early Monday morning, the moon will provide stargazers a triple helping of thrills.

First, it will be the fourth “blood moon” in the past year and a half. The eclipse is said to be the last of a "tetrad," four consecutive total lunar eclipses. The others were in April and October of 2014, and last April.

“Look outside – the sky is beautifully blue [Friday]. Little bitty dust motes are scattering little bitty light waves; the blues, the violets,” said Wayne Wooten, an astronomer at Pensacola State College.

“The long stuff – the reds, the oranges – get through the atmosphere much better,” Wooten said. “The atmosphere is of course transparent, but it refracts – it bends – sunlight around its rim. And since the blue has been left behind, it’s the reds and oranges that are going to bathe the moon bloody about 10:00 Sunday evening.”

Add to the moon’s coloring its proximity to the Earth on that night. The full moon will appear larger because it’s at perigee – the closest point with Earth around 221,000 miles. It’s the first full moon-perigee-lunar eclipse – or “Super Moon” – in 33 years.

From first shadow to last, the eclipse should go about 72 minutes. It will be visible from most of the Americas -- including the eastern half of the United States.

However, there is a 60 percent chance of rain in the Pensacola area on Sunday, which could cloud over the eclipse. NASA TV will have live coverage that you can watch in the comfort of your own home.

Some view a red moon as a sign of the Apocalypse, noting that other tetrads took place in key years in history, including 1492 – when Jews were expelled from Spain – and 1948, when war broke out in the Middle East. Wooten says a lunar eclipse also played a role in the discovery of America.

“[Christopher] Columbus tricks the Indians into getting them to feed and water him, and make it back to Spain on his fourth expedition, because he knew the table of lunar eclipses,” said Wooten. “For Columbus, it was a very fortuitous thing that would allow Spanish colonization to continue, and establish La Florida.”

Skeptics have pointed out that the claims made of "blood moons" – the term itself is relatively a new one -- should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. The advice from PSC astronomer Wayne Wooten – look up and enjoy.

“It’s one of the most beautiful spectacles in nature,” Wooten said. “Along with the bloody color there’s also a beautiful blue fringe, which is the ozone layer creating that. You know, they just happen and people keep on going. I don’t know if there’s any more wars or famines or pestilence, if you were actually going to do a statistical survey.”

And be sure to enjoy this Super Moon. There have only been five super moon eclipses since 1900 -- 1910, ‘28, ‘46, ‘64 and ‘82. After Sunday, the next super moon will occur in 2033.