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Wolf moon set to light up the night sky

First supermoon and total lunar eclipse in the early hours of Monday, January 21

THE first full moon of the year is often known as the Wolf Moon and, this year, it is not only a supermoon (at its closest to Earth), but there will also be a total lunar eclipse visible from North and South America, Europe and western Africa.

The peak time to catch this phenomenon in Newbury is around 5am. So set your alarm, wrap up very warm and keep your fingers crossed for clear skies.

If it is a cloud-free night then you could be rewarded with a spectacular sight. The moon will start to move into Earth’s shadow at about 2.30am, but will be completely inside the shadow between 4.40am and 5.40am.

During that hour the moon could disappear completely from view or, more likely, some of the light from the sun will filter through the Earth's atmosphere and you may see an orangey red globe hanging in the sky. Sunlight filtered through the earth's atmosphere bounces back onto the moon's surface, and because the light waves are stretched out, they appear red when they strike the moon's surface.

This is what gives the moon its reddish tinge which, while not "blood" red as its name suggests, has a copper-like colour.

And in case you’re wondering – do wolves howl at the moon?

There is no scientific evidence that the moon phase plays any particular part in the calls of the wolf, but wolves are nocturnal animals, so they are in general more active at night. And wolves do howl in the direction of the moon; they point their faces toward the sky for better acoustics, because projecting their howl upward carries the sound farther.

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