Most of us are not that much into Mondays, but this particular early Monday morning, on September 28, was different. Actually “different” is an understatement, since we had observed an inspiring astronomical occurrence, which apart from being a visual spectacle, happens fairly rarely. The last time the world enjoyed a full Supermoon total eclipse has been 33 years ago, back in 1982.
This combined astronomical event was regarded with great anticipation, as the Moon was at its perigee while going full and totally eclipsed at the same time. Perigee is the point when the Moon is closest to the Earth and appears larger and much clearly visible for skywatchers’ delight.
Solar and lunar eclipses always come in pairs, with a lunar eclipse taking place two weeks before or after a solar one. Last night’s total lunar eclipse was also the last in a series of four full moon eclipses, called Lunar Tetrad. The four eclipses occur six months apart and have five full moons between them. We are definitely lucky with lunar Tetrads, as in the 21st century there are eight lunar tetdrads happening, the maximum number that can appear in a century. The last time that happened was in the distant 9th century.
Total lunar eclipses are being popularly referred to as Blood Moon. That phrase is trending, but not scientifically used by astronomers. And there are different suggestions when comes to the origin of the colloquial term. One links it to the reddish-copperish glow which the Moon gets when the Earth casts its shadow upon it during total lunar eclipse. The phenomenon is caused by the same effect that causes sunsets and sunrises to appear red and the sky blue – the Rayleigh scattering of sunlight through the Earth’s atmosphere.
The other hypothesis views the Blood Moon as an omen for the end of times. There are particular Christian ministers that claim the phrase stems from the Bible and is a prophecy for some difficult times ahead. The reference to this idea is The Book of Joel, where it is written that “the sun will turn into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” The blood moon also appears in The Book of Revelation: “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood”.