Editor's Note: This article originally listed Jim Greenhouse under the incorrect title. That has been corrected to read that he is the director of space science at the Albuquerque Natural History Museum. The Daily Lobo apologizes for any confusion.
A once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event occurred Wednesday, with the onslaught of a super blue blood moon eclipse.
The last time this occurred was in 1866, according to Jim Greenhouse, director of space science at the Albuquerque Natural History Museum.
Lunar eclipses occur when the moon, earth and sun are all aligned, which can happen several times per year. However, this lunar eclipse is unusual, because it happened on both a blue moon and a super moon, Greenhouse said.
The Albuquerque Natural History Museum hosted an event early Wednesday morning to give visitors the opportunity to view the unusual occurrence and learn more about it.
The eclipse began at 4:48 a.m. MST, reached totality at 6:29 a.m. and ended at 7:09 a.m. Sunrise was at 7:05 a.m., which means that the lunar eclipse was visible during the day.
“We are really excited that people decided to get up early and come see this rare lunar eclipse,” Greenhouse said.
Annie Kennedy, one of the guests viewing the lunar eclipse, came to the Natural History Museum to see the eclipse through the museum’s telescopes. She was also excited that so many people were interested in learning about the astronomical phenomenon.
“Having a supermoon, blue moon and lunar eclipse all in one morning is really cool, and I think we should all learn as much as we can about it,” Kennedy said.
This lunar eclipse was also a blood moon. The term, blue moon, does not refer to the color of the moon, but rather that it is the second full moon in the same month — blood moon, on the other hand, does refer to the reddish color the moon takes on during an eclipse.
Dr. Gregory Taylor, an astronomy professor at UNM, explained the science behind this change in color.
During the eclipse, red light is refracted around Earth's atmosphere. When sunlight hits the Earth, the blue light is scattered away, leaving only red light. This red light is then cast onto the moon and bounces back toward Earth, he said.
The moon appears larger on the horizon during a supermoon, because it is closer to Earth, Taylor said. The moon orbits around Earth in an elliptical pathway — when the moon reaches the closest part of its orbit, we have a supermoon.
“We only get eclipses when the orbital plane of the moon is in-line with both the Earth and the sun,” Taylor said. “Lunar eclipses don’t happen every month, because the orbit of the moon is on an inclined plane, so sometimes it’s too low, and sometimes it's too high.”
The next super blue blood moon will happen in 2037, according to NASA.
Megan Holmen is a culture and news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or on Twitter @megan_holmen.