How To See Sunday’s Super Blood Wolf Moon From Kapolei

This Sunday evening—if you’re in an open space with unobstructed views roughly in the direction of Kāneʻohe, you’ll be lucky enough to witness a “super blood wolf moon.” Sounds spooky, yeah?

The creepy name comes from the convergence of three lunar phenomena:

  • The moon will be at perigee (the point in its orbit when it’s closest to Earth), which will make it “appear 13 percent larger and about 16 percent brighter than the average full moon” → SUPER
  • There will be a lunar eclipse, which will turn the moon a shade of red → BLOOD
  • This is the first full moon of the year, which the Old Farmer’s Almanac calls the “wolf moon” — because the wolves are said to howl at it due to mid-winter hunger → WOLF

A lunar eclipse happens when the sun, Earth, and a full moon are lined up in a certain way. In this alignment, the moon passes through Earth’s shadow. But some sunlight bends around Earth and lights up the moon.

And it’s red light. Because that’s the portion of the light spectrum that gets refracted (bent) around us toward the moon. That’s why the moon will look like a glowing piece of charcoal.

There’s Math Required To Confirm Visibility

Or at least, it should — a lot depends on when the moon rises. I wasn’t sure I could even share this news on Howzit Kapolei. I had to brush up on my trigonometry, which I haven’t used since high school, people! I’ll share my work with you here, but keep in mind high school was over a decade ago for me, so feel free to comment if you see any mistakes. Or skip ahead to the TLDR.

I learned from this website that the eclipse will begin at 6:41 pm and conclude at 7:43 pm, with the maximum eclipse (when the moon is right at the center of Earth’s shadow) occurring at 7:12 pm.

At the maximum eclipse, the moon will be coming out of the east-northeast at 73 degrees. If you are in Kapolei looking at 73 degrees east-northeast, you’re basically looking at Kāneʻohe. Also, at the maximum eclipse, the moon will have risen to an altitude of 12.7 degrees above the horizon.

Will The Koʻolau Mountains Block The Moon?

What I wasn’t sure about just looking at those numbers is: Will the moon have risen enough at that point to clear the Koʻolau Mountains? This is where the trigonometry comes in.

I needed to determine the altitude of the Koʻolaus from Kapolei, or their angle above the horizon. If that angle is smaller than the 12.7 degrees altitude of the moon, then theoretically we should be able to see the lunar eclipse.

I used the scale on Google Maps to determine that the Koʻolaus are about 16 miles away from Kapolei. I used a topographic map to determine that the height of the Koʻolaus at this point is roughly 2800′. But, I decided to use their maximum height of 3100′ for my math just to be on the safe side. (I also set Kapolei at sea level, so an elevation of 0’.)

Here’s a photo of my math scribbles, so you can see the work I did.

lunar eclipse math
Using the tangent function (tan(x)=opposite/adjacent) and then this inverse tangent calculator (since I have no idea whatever happened to my TI-83 calculator from high school), I determined that the altitude angle of the Koʻolaus is only about 2.1 degrees.

So, since the moon should be at 12.7 degrees above the horizon, and the Ko’olaus only block up to 2.1 degrees, we should be able to see it!

TLDR (too long, didn’t read)

We should be able to see the Super Blood Wolf Moon from Kapolei on Sunday 1/20 from 6:41 pm to 7:43 pm with maximum Bloodiness occurring at 7:12 pm. Look for it in the east.