Watch for blood moon over the Tri-Cities on Sunday

A rare blood moon will rise Sunday over the Mid-Columbia.
A rare blood moon will rise Sunday over the Mid-Columbia. Courtesy

Skies should be mostly clear over the Tri-Cities as a rare blood moon rises Sunday evening.

For the first time in 33 years, a supermoon combined with a lunar eclipse will grace the early evening sky, making the moon glow red and appear slightly bigger.

It’s expected to rise already in full eclipse just after 6:30 p.m., slightly above the eastern horizon. It should stay red for more than an hour, and then look bigger and brighter than normal, according to information from Washington State University.

An unusual combination of planetary events will be behind the display, said Michael Allen, WSU astronomer.

“The moon’s dusky red color will probably be what appears most unique about it to the naked eye. The color should be impressive,” he said.

The reddish hue is caused when most sunlight is blocked from hitting the moon’s surface as the moon passes through the earth’s shadow during a total lunar eclipse.

The eclipse will occur during a supermoon, when the moon is closer to earth than at any other time of year. Officials at the Moore Observatory at Columbia Basin College say it will appear 20 percent brighter and about 15 percent larger than a regular full moon.

Those who want an up-close view of the eclipse can see it through the telescope at the observatory on the west end of the Pasco campus just off Argent Road. They should arrive between 6 and 6:30 p.m. and the event will continue until about 9 p.m.

There is no charge, and instructor Michael Brady will be available to discuss the blood moon and answer questions.

If the skies are as clear as predicted, Tri-City residents will see something that last happened in 1982 and won’t happen again until 2033. The National Weather Service expects Sunday to be sunny in the Tri-Cities, with some clouds moving in that night.

Should the forecast change by Sunday, Tri-City residents can watch it on their computers. NASA plans a live feed at www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-msfc with views from several locations across the U.S.