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Two Supermoons, Blue Moon, Eclipse for Portland, Oregon, Coast

Published 12/31/2017 at 3:45 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Two Supermoons, Blue Moon, Eclipse for Portland, Oregon, Coast

(Oregon Coast) – Two full moons, a blue moon, two supermoons and a total lunar eclipse: this is what's in store for the Oregon coast, Portland and the inland state in January. 2018 kicks off with an astronomical bang in the skies, starting the evening hours of New Year's Day. (Above: the moon will look like this during the eclipse).

On top of all that solar system fun and frolic, the king tides are happening on the Oregon coast from January 2 - 4. These are some of largest high tides of the year – also the subject of a special citizen science project where the public is asked to photograph the highest tides on those days.

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Moreover: all this brings up a very strange fact about how the Oregon coast may actually help affect the moon, and in turn help the moon alter time on Earth.

There are two full moons in January, which means the second one is called a blue moon. Both full moons are a supermoon – meaning they're bigger and brighter than most full moons because the Earth is at its closest point to the moon.

The real climax of all this: expect a total lunar eclipse on that blue moon.

January 1 – New Year's Day – is the first supermoon of the month. The second, also the lunar eclipse, comes on January 31. Ironically, this blue moon will have a red glow because of this eclipse effect.

According to Jim Todd of Portland's OMSI, the term “blue moon” has been in use for nearly 400 years.

“But during that time its meaning has shifted around a lot,” Todd said. “More recently, the term was cited in The Maine Farmers' Almanac, 1937.”

A blue moon happens about every three to four years; the last to occur was in July of 2015.

Under some circumstances, the moon actually may appear blue.

“On very cold winter nights when ice crystals in the air form a ring around the Moon, the scattering of moonlight by smoke particulate causes the Moon to appear blue,” Todd said. “The red end of the spectrum is scattered more than the blue end of the spectrum, which causes light seen from the Moon to look more blue: hence, a blue moon.”

The New Year's Day moon and super moon is also called the “wolf moon,” as it's the first full moon of the year.

A supermoon is so named because it appears 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than the usual full moons.

Todd said on January 1, the moon reaches its closest approach to Earth (also known as perigee) at 1:54 p.m. The moon will be full the same day at 6:24 p.m.

On January 30, the perigee of Luna will occur at 1:56 a.m. at a distance of 223.068 miles, followed by a full moon at 5:27 a.m.

The big fireworks is the total lunar eclipse, which will create an eerie, faint red glow. In Oregon, along the coast and in Portland, it begins taking a chunk out of our lunar neighbor at 2:51 a.m. Partial eclipse is about 3:50 a.m., then the full eclipse starts at 4:51 a.m. and goes until 5:29 a.m. It all gets back to normal at 6:07 a.m.

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Now for the really weird part: because of the tidal forces of the ocean (including the Pacific Ocean), the moon is slowly moving away from Earth at a rate of 1.5 inches per year. The moon creates the tides here by cause a “tidal bulge” whereby the ocean facing it is bulging outward a bit, and the oceans on the other side of the world are being tugged inward.

In turn, this interaction actually slows the rotation of the Earth by a tiny fraction, shortening its days by about four hours every billion years.

All this tidal interaction, of course, means the King Tides Project is in full swing along the Oregon coast on January 2 through 4. Information on how to participate and post photos can be found on the project’s website, http://www.oregonkingtides.net/. Below: more lunar eclipse photos from Portland and the Oregon coast:

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