Why the "Super Blue Blood Moon" will be a sight to behold

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Waiting for the "super blue blood moon"

CBS News

SAN FRANCISCO -- A full moon is often a sight to behold, but early Wednesday morning, there's a convergence of lunar events last seen in the United States in 1866.  

"The big show is to watch the shadow of the Earth advancing across the surface of the full moon," said Brian Day, a NASA lunar scientist.

Rare "Super Blue Blood Moon" Makes Appearance On U.S. West Coast
AMBOY, CA - JANUARY 31: A so-called 'super blue blood moon' is seen in total eclipse above the Mojave Desert on January 31, 2018 near Amboy, California. David McNew / Getty Images

But that lunar eclipse is just part of the show. The moon will pass closely to Earth, appearing both bigger and brighter, called a "supermoon." It's also a "blue moon," the second full moon of the month.

"This blue moon is actually going to be red just to make things interesting," said Day.

With the lunar eclipse, the Earth's shadow will turn the moon a rust color, called a "blood moon." Put it all together and it's a grand slam known as a "Super Blue Blood Moon."

"It's the ultimate lineup," said Tim McManus, a photographer. "You got a whole planet lined up in it."

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Photographer Tim McManus captures unique images of the moon Tim McManus

McManus can seem obsessed with the full moon. Sometimes he waits years to capture the moon in just the right position near a San Francisco landmark. He has a secret location in mind for early Wednesday morning.

"Just say, there will be some San Francisco iconic images in it," McManus said.

There will be something for everyone in the "super blue blood moon." Scientists will be measuring what happens as the Earth's shadow blocks the sun and the temperature on the moon's surface suddenly drops.

"So by watching these temperature changes we can actually make some assessment of the different types of material that we have in different areas of the moon," said Day.

In the U.S. only those in the West will see the "Super Blue Blood Moon," but for everyone else, McManus has photographs that show any full moon can be almost as magical.

  • John Blackstone
    John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.