Look to the skies this Jan 31 for rare moon phenomena

PETALING JAYA: Stargazers and astrophotographers will be treated to an incredibly rare celestial display at the end of this month – a blue moon, a supermoon and a total lunar eclipse.

The three-in-one event, which can be seen across Malaysian skies, will take place on the night of Jan 31. The last time this phenomenon was seen was in 1866, about 152 years ago.

Astronomer Shahrin Ahmad said it would be the second full moon seen in a calendar month.

“This rare sighting is also known as the blue moon among stargazers,” he said.

The moon’s position will be close to Earth, making it larger and 30% brighter than usual. This occurrence is also known as a supermoon.

“At the same time, there will also be a lunar eclipse that night. The moon can be seen in a deep, rich red – making it look like a blood moon.”

Shahrin said the supermoon would appear from 7.19pm. About 30 minutes later, the lunar eclipse will take place.

The total eclipse begins at 8.51pm, followed by a maximum eclipse at 9.29pm. At 10.07pm, the total eclipse will end.

When the total eclipse begins, Shahrin said, the moon would be deep red.

He said the event would be visible anywhere around the country.

“However, the best sighting will be on a hilltop or a tall building, where there is no obstruction,” he added.

He said those who missed the event could only see a similar phenomenon on Dec 31, 2028, and Jan 31, 2037.

Shahrin said the supermoon phenomenon would be a full moon or a new moon that was closest to Earth.

The next supermoon can be seen only in January next year.

He said the blue moon, however, was not blue in colour but an occurrence of a new moon twice in a calendar month.

The last time it occurred was on July 31, 2015, while the next one is March 31. After the March sighting, the blue moon will not appear until Oct 2, 2020.

The total lunar eclipse was last seen in Malaysia on Sept 27, 2015, and the next one will be on July 27.