The Largest and Brightest Supermoon of the Year Is Happening This Month
Yes, folks, it's true — we've got another supermoon this month. And the full moon on May 26, 2021, is set to be a real stunner. Not only will it be the largest and brightest supermoon of the year, but it will also undergo a total lunar eclipse. And that means, unlike the Super Pink Moon, which wasn't pink at all, the Super Blood Moon will actually be red. Here's everything you need to know about the can't-miss lunar event, from how it got its name to when and where to see it.
What is a blood moon?
If you've been following along with our astronomy coverage throughout the year, you might be familiar with the concept of full moon nicknames — per the Old Farmer's Almanac, each full moon is given a name derived from Native American or colonial tradition. May's full moon is usually called the Flower Moon, since many flowers bloom this month.
But this year, we're referring to the May full moon by a different name: the Super Blood Moon. That's because this month's full moon coincides with a total lunar eclipse. As the moon passes through the Earth's shadow, it'll turn a rust color reminiscent of, well, blood. That reddish hue will be best seen from the Pacific Rim, or the western coast of North America (plus Alaska and Hawaii), the eastern coast of Asia, the eastern half of Australia, and all of New Zealand. Elsewhere, you might only catch a hint of red, or perhaps none at all.
As for the supermoon designation? Read on.
What is a supermoon?
The moon is not a static distance away from Earth — its orbit is elliptical, meaning sometimes it's closer to us, and other times, it's farther away. A supermoon happens when the full moon occurs at a point in the orbit that is close to Earth (specifically, within 90% of its closest distance, or perigee). May's supermoon, which is the third of four in 2021, will be the year's largest, as it's the closest full moon to Earth. It'll appear about 7% larger and 15% brighter than standard full moons.
When is the Super Blood Moon?
Catch this astronomical spectacle on May 26. The eclipse lasts from 9:45 UTC to 12:52 UTC (2:45 a.m. PDT to 5:52 a.m. PDT), with totality occurring from 11:11 UTC to 11:26 UTC (4:11 a.m. PDT to 4:26 a.m. PDT.) If you're not located somewhere where the eclipse will be visible, don't worry, as you can still enjoy the Super Flower Moon on the evening of May 25 into the morning of May 26 — it just won't turn red. If you want to catch the eclipse, observatories around the world will likely livestream the event (NASA has streamed eclipses in the past, too).
When is the next full moon?
If you miss May's Super Blood Moon, you'll have another chance to spot a supermoon next month — the Super Strawberry Moon on June 24.