How to Watch the Lunar Eclipse and Supermoon on Sunday Night
Why is it being called a ‘Super Blood Wolf Moon’?
This lunar eclipse has been given a name that sounds like it belongs to a heavy metal band. But it’s really all glitter, not gold. So let’s break it down:
The term “supermoon” has come to loosely mean a full moon near perigee, or the point when it is closest to Earth in its elliptical orbit. Normally when this happens, most people can’t tell, as the moon appears only slightly bigger than it does any other night.
But when compared with the moon at apogee, when it is farthest away from the Earth, the differences come into focus. For example, on Monday during perigee, the moon will be approximately 222,040 miles away from our planet, in contrast to Jan. 9, when it was at apogee and about 252,350 miles away. A “supermoon” is about 14 percent larger than one at apogee and 30 percent brighter.
But this term was actually first coined in 1979 by an astrologist named Richard Nolle, not by an astronomer.
This is an embellishment of the coppery-red tint that the moon takes on during any lunar eclipse. Sometimes it’s more brown.
Nothing to do with werewolves.
The “wolf” title has been attributed to the Native Americans’ name for January’s full moon. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the term comes from the “Algonquin tribes who lived in regions from New England to Lake Superior.” But this sourcing is suspect.
“The ‘wolf’ part, it’s almost like this stereotypical, romanticized version of the native culture,” said Annette Lee, a mixed-race Dakota-Sioux astronomer at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota.
The term, she said, is an oversimplification that sort of groups hundreds of distinct Native American tribes together into one blob. For example, the Ojibwe tribe — which historically lived around Lake Superior and is a part of the Algonquin-language family — called both the month of January and its full moon the “Great Spirit Moon,” she said. In their language, it is “Gichi-manidoo-giizis,” according to Ojibwe.net.