A January 2019 Supermoon Eclipse Is Coming - And This Is Why It's Special

January 2019 is bringing a supermoon to add some excitement to the post-Christmas winter gloom.

And this one will be special.

That's because three astronomical events will happen at the same time, combining into a rare cosmic spectacle.

It won't just be a supermoon but will also be a lunar eclipse and a blood moon.

It's great news not just for stargazers but also a treat for everyone else who is struggling through the most depressing month of the year, after the celebrations of Christmas and New Year, as we wait until the next payday.

All we have to do is look to the skies and enjoy a free celestial show right in front of us.

So when is this special supermoon in 2019?

And will you be able to see it where you are?

Here's all you need to know.

What is a supermoon?

A plane passes in front of a supermoon over Monterey Park, California

The term supermoon describes a moon that's much larger and brighter.

The moon itself is the same size, of course, but it appears to be 14 per cent larger and 30 per cent larger in our skies because it is closer to the Earth than usual.

The moon does not go around the Earth in a neat circular orbit but in a path that's elliptical, meaning there are times it's much closer or further away.

How close does it need to come to be called a supermoon?

American astrologer Richard Nolle came up with the term supermoon back in 1979 and defines it as "a full moon or new moon that comes within 90 per cent of its closest approach to Earth."

In 2019, the moon will be 221,681 miles (356,761 km) from Earth at its nearest point. That's 30,000 miles closer to us than usual.

So any full moon or new moon that occurs within 90 per cent of that distance is dubbed a supermoon.

This means any full moon or new moon that comes to within 224,775 miles or 361,740 km (or less) of our planet.

Astronomers usually refer to supermoons by the more scientific descriptions of perigean full moons or perigean new moons. That comes from the word perigee, meaning the closest point.

A supermoon behind Benedictine monastery Downside Abbey in Stratton-on-the-Fosse, Somerset, on February 1, 2018 (Image: Getty Images Europe)

When is the supermoon lunar eclipse?

The next supermoon is the January 21 full moon.

It will also be a lunar eclipse. That means the Earth, moon and sun are perfectly aligned.

The moon will be plunged into the Earth's shadow.

During the upcoming eclipse in January, the total eclipse is expected to last one hour and two minutes.

NASA said: "Lunar eclipses occur about two to four times per year, when the moon passes into the Earth's shadow.

"In order to see a lunar eclipse, you must be on the night side of the Earth, facing the moon, when the Earth passes in between the moon and the Sun."

So what is a blood moon?

A coppery-coloured supermoon over Whitley Bay in September 2014. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Although it's in the shadow of the Earth, the moon will not go totally dark.

At the time of total eclipse, it will instead take on an eerie red or orange hue and become what's called a blood moon.

That's because the only light that manages to pass through the Earth's atmosphere and reach the moon's surface are the red wavelengths.

The effect is known as Rayleigh Scattering and is also the reason for the reddish colours of sunrises and sunsets.

What time is the eclipse?

The supermoon behind the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, was turned into a dramatic blood moon during the lunar eclipse on January 31, 2018 (Image: AP)

In Birmingham - and across the rest of the UK - we will be able to see the total supermoon eclipse from 4.41am to 5.43am in the early hours of Monday, January 21.

The whole process will last even longer as the moon moves in and out of that position.

The moon starts to go darker as it enter the lighter area of shadow (penumbra) cast by the Earth at 2.36am. This is said to be the best time to take a photo of the full moon, because it has less glare.

At 3.33am it will start to become reddish in colour.

A completely red moon will be observed from 4.41am at the time of total eclipse, when the moon is totally in the darkest part of shadow (umbra) cast by Earth.

At 5.43am, that total eclipse ends. By 7.48am, it is totally out of shadow, giving a total duration of 5 hours 12 minutes from start to finish.

Timings will be the same from other locations in the UK.

Astronomers warn that the moon will be close to the horizon, so make sure you can easily see the lower part of the sky in a west-northwest direction. Trees or tall buildings are likely to block that view.

When are all the supermoons in 2019?

There are six supermoons in 2019.

They are on January 21, February 19, March 21, August 1, August 30 and September 28.

The first three supermoons are at the time of a full moon, the others are at a new moon so will be more difficult to see.

The February 19 supermoon is the closest and largest of this year's supermoons but there won't be any eclipse taking place at the same time.

When is the next eclipse?

The next eclipse visible from Birmingham and the rest of the UK will be a partial lunar eclipse on July 16-17.

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