„How many more times will you watch the full moon rise?“ wrote Paul Bowles in his 1949 novel, The Sheltering Sky, „Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.“ At the time, the line served as an attack on the unexamined, inexperienced lives; yet, today, it could be read as a challenge.
On 31st January, stargazers across the western edge of the Americas right through the Pacific and eastern Asia witnessed the second of January’s super moons. These occur when the moon is closest to the Earth, and appears 14% bigger and 30% brighter than normal.
A rare, second full moon within a single month is called a blue moon, although on this occasion the moon took on a darker, ruddier hue because, on the night of 31st January, the Earth was in front of the sun, eclipsing the moon. Rather than obscuring its light altogether, the moon turned red, as the Earth’s atmosphere filtered and refracted a little sunlight.
Alas, this spectacular celestial event wasn’t visible in Western Europe, and was only partially visible on America’s eastern seaboard. So, where did one see it? You could have taken a trip to the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort in the Indian Ocean to view the moon rise in all its glory; booked in at Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, California, for a clifftop view of the setting moon; or reserved a well-appointed suite at Island Shangri-La in Hong Kong to take in the eclipse in full. Twenty full moons might have been a lifetime’s worth in Bowles‘ day, yet nowadays, we all owe it to ourselves to pack in a little more.
Alex Rayner works for the fine-art publishers Phaidon, co-edits the art and fashion biennial Supplement, and contributes to The Guardian.