How to see Sunday's super blood wolf moon

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News
A so-called 'super blue blood moon' is seen in total eclipse above the Mojave Desert on January 31, 2018 near Amboy, California.  The super wolf blood moon will be visible Sunday, Jan. 20.

Bloomfield Hills — It sounds like a very long name for a team of cartoon characters, and it only happens once in a blue moon.

It's a super blood wolf moon —a combination total lunar eclipse and supermoon, a full moon that's so close to Earth it looks bigger and brighter than usual.  

"It will be about 30 percent brighter than usual, but only about 6-7 percent bigger than usual," said Michael Narlock, head of astronomy and the exhibits and web coordinator at the Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills. "And it just so happens that this particular supermoon Sunday will happen at the same time we're going to have a total lunar eclipse." 

During totality, the moon will look red because of sunlight scattering off Earth’s atmosphere.

"So the moon is going to be a little bit bigger, a little bit brighter and then all of sudden, as it passes through the Earth's atmosphere, it's going to turn a blood red."

In January, the full moon is also sometimes known as the wolf moon or great spirit moon.

Narlock said the phenomenon isn't rare, but it doesn't happen very often, either.  

"We get 3-4 supermoons a year and total lunar eclipses happen about 5 percent of the time we have a full moon, so about 1 percent of every full moon is a super blood moon."

Rice University astrophysicist Patrick Hartigan said Sunday's moon will be something to see.

“This one is particularly good,” he said.  “It not only is a supermoon and it’s a total eclipse, but the total eclipse also lasts pretty long. It’s about an hour.”

The Statue of Liberty and the Staten Island Ferry are backdropped by a supermoon, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, seen from the Brooklyn borough of New York. The supermoon, which is the final of three consecutive supermoons, also experience lunar eclipse as it set over the horizon, but only a partial eclipse was visible in the East Coast.

The whole eclipse starts Sunday night or early Monday, depending on location, and will take about three hours. 

In Metro Detroit, it begins with the partial phase around 10:34 p.m. Sunday. That’s when Earth’s shadow will begin to nip at the moon. Totality — when Earth’s shadow completely blankets the moon — will last 62 minutes, beginning at 11:41 p.m.

If the skies are clear, the entire eclipse will be visible in North and South America, as well as Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, Portugal and the French and Spanish coasts. The rest of Europe, as well as Africa, will have partial viewing before the moon sets. Some places will be livestreaming it, including the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.

In the U.S., the eclipse will begin relatively early Sunday evening, making it easier for children to stay up and enjoy the show. Plus the next day is a federal holiday, with most schools closed. But the weather forecast for much of the U.S. doesn’t look good.

Parents “can keep their kids up maybe a little bit later,” said, Hartigan, who will catch the lunar extravaganza from Houston.

“It’s just a wonderful thing for the whole family to see because it’s fairly rare to have all these things kind of come together at the same time.”

“The good thing about this is that you don’t need any special equipment,” he added.

Narlock said Metro Detroiters should be able to catch a glimpse of the moon "anywhere it's clear. A clear sky is all you need. Maybe a pair of binoculars or a small telescope."

Asia, Australia and New Zealand are out of luck. But they had prime viewing last year, when two total lunar eclipses occurred.

The next total lunar eclipse won’t be until May 2021.

As for full-moon supermoons, this will be the first of three this year. The upcoming supermoon will be about 222,000 miles away. The Feb. 19 supermoon will be a bit closer and the one on March 20 will be the farthest.

On Sunday, the Cranbrook Institute of Science will hold a special event from 8-11 p.m. called "Total Eclipse, Total Fun" to watch the supermoon. The evening will feature moon-related activities leading up to the eclipse. The Cranbrook Observatory will also be open and telescopes will be set up outside for additional viewing.

Admission is $15 for members and $20 for non-members.

Associated Press contributed.

Twitter: @CharlesERamirez