If you are in Europe, Africa, Asia and parts of Australia this Friday, 10 January, you'll be treated to the sight of a wolf moon eclipse if the skies are clear. These eclipses happen as the moon enters Earth’s outer shadow, which is known as a penumbral lunar eclipse.
Full moons happen every 29.5 days, and the first one of the decade coincides with the first eclipse of the year. It is also set to be the deepest lunar eclipse of 2020. The moon will be 100% illuminated at 7.21pm UT, but sadly those in North America won't be able to see the phenomenon as it will occur when it's daytime there. Happily, they will be able to see two of the four penumbral lunar eclipses that will occur in 2020.
While they won't see this eclipse, those in North and South America will be able to see the wolf moon a few hours later. For those curious about where the name "wolf moon" comes from, January's full moon is known as that because Native American tribes originally tracked the changing seasons by the lunar months rather than the solar calendar. They attributed names to them that were appropriate for the time of year, so the January one was named after the howling wolves searching for food on cold winter nights.
The wolf eclipse won't be a blood moon, where it has a red hue, as that only occurs when the moon passes directly behind Earth and into its shadow, known as its umbra. What happens during a penumbral lunar eclipse is that the moon loses a lot of its brightness, as the Earth blocks some or all of the sun's light from reaching the moon.
So if you're a fan of dramatic lunar events, get ready to welcome the first lunar spectacle of the decade.