SALT LAKE CITY — Many Utahns hoping to witness the eclipsing "super blue blood moon" early Wednesday saw only clouds.
But the silver lining, according to the state's most well-known sky watcher, is that unlike solar eclipses, lunar eclipses happen often enough to give Utahns several opportunities to experience one in their lifetime.
"It was pretty, people saw it and they really liked it," Patrick Wiggins, amateur astronomer and NASA ambassador to Utah, said of the morning's eclipse. "For people here in Utah, if you didn't get to see it, we've got another one coming up in a year, so worry not."
The eclipse combined a "super moon," or a moon that is full while at its orbit's closest point to Earth, with a "blood moon," a nickname for the reddish color that appears on the moon as sunbeams peek around the edges of the earth and shine on it. Wednesday's moon was also a "blue moon," or the second full moon to occur in a calendar month.
While much of northern Utah was too overcast to see the lunar event, those gazing heavenward in southern Utah got a clear view as the full moon rose, was enveloped in the Earth's shadow, and then re-emerged with a copper hue.
Denice Summerhays, of Washington, rose at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday to watch the "lunar trifecta" with her father, not wanting to miss the rare combination of astronomical events. Her young daughter, however, stayed cozy in bed.
For about 45 minutes, Summerhays said she and her father had a breathtaking view of the event.
"It was definitely worth getting up to see," Summerhays said. "The colors were vivid, and it's fun to be part of something like this."
While Wednesday's eclipse had some special qualities, Wiggins noted that lunar eclipses are relatively common, if Utahns want to see one.
"We have total eclipses of the moon fairly frequently," Wiggins assured. "But if it had been clear, this would have been a nice experience."
Another challenge in Utah was the quickly rising sun, which illuminated the moon as the eclipse finished, Wiggins said. The people with the best view, he said, were those west of the state. Some of the best views, he said, were spotted by passengers on a red-eye flight to Hawaii.1 comment on this story
"The end of the eclipse, even if it had been clear, we wouldn't have been able to see from here because it would have set," Wiggins said. "But if you were further west, all of the reports that I have seen were very good."
Wiggins encourages Utahns who missed Wednesday's lunar eclipse to enjoy the photos and videos being shared online of the event, then mark their calendars for the next one. He offers a full schedule of lunar and solar eclipses that will be visible in Utah until 2025 on his website, utahastro.info.