What is a “Blood Moon”?

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Photo courtesy of earthsky.org

Photo courtesy of earthsky.org

Last Wednesday’s “Blood Moon” was the first of a series of four consecutive total lunar eclipses that will occur in the next 18 months.

In the early morning of Wednesday April 15, a total lunar eclipse was visible from North America. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon, earth, and sun align perfectly in space (in that order), causing the earth to cast its shadow on the surface of the moon. When the moon is completely covered by the earth’s shadow, it appears to glow “blood red,” as some astronomers describe.

The red glow observed from Earth is the light of all Earth’s sunsets and sunrises reflecting off the moon. As NASA describes it, if a person was standing on the moon looking up at the night side of earth, the sun completely hidden behind, he might expect the earth to appear completely black, however, it would not. The edge of the planet would appear to be on fire! What this person would be seeing is every one of Earth’s sunsets and sunrises at the same time. This red light illuminates the surface of the moon, giving it a reddish glow and earning it the name “Blood Moon.”

Wednesday’s eclipse was the beginning of a lunar tetrad—a series of four consecutive total lunar eclipses six full moons apart.  Three more eclipses are to follow, the first occurring on October 8, another on April 4, 2015, and the last on September 28, 2015. All of the eclipses in this tetrad will be visible from North America.

The eclipses in the current tetrad appear to be the first referred to as “Blood Moons,” but they are no bloodier than the typical total eclipse.  So why is it suddenly a “Blood Moon?”

According to Earth & Sky, the term “Blood Moon” was probably made popular by Christian Pastors John Hagee and Mike Blitz, whose “Blood Moon Prophecy” asserts that the current lunar tetrad is a sign from God that significant changes are about to occur on Earth or even that the Second Coming will coincide with the final eclipse. The prophecy is based on a verse from the Bible that prophesizes that “the sun will be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood before the great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.”  The controversy of the “Blood Moon Prophecy” in the Christian community gained it a lot of attention and probably helped popularize the term “Blood Moon.”

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