This Sunday evening, sky gazers on five continents will be able to marvel at a rare cosmic show with three celestial events happening at the same time – a lunar eclipse also known as a Blood Moon, a Supermoon, and a Harvest Moon.
Harvest Moon is a special type of full moon because due to a very low angle of the trajectory the moon follows across the sky every night, the celestial body rises at the same low point above the horizon on multiple nights as if there is a series of ‘full moons’ several nights in a row. This was especially helpful for harvesters, as full moon provided them with additional light at harvest time.
Supermoons occur when the moon reaches the closest point to our planet in a year. Supermoons are also known as ‘perigee moons’ which means ‘near the earth’ (from Late Greek ‘peri’ which means ‘near’ and ‘ge’ which translates as ‘earth’). On Sunday, our planet’s natural satellite will be located at 222,374 miles above Earth’s surface, so expect some high tides from Sunday through Wednesday.
Astronomers, however, say that this Sunday’s Supermoon would look unusually big to the human eye due to an optical illusion created by the mix of a Supermoon and a Harvest Moon. A Supermoon looks often 14 percent larger than a regular full moon, but because it is located closer to the horizon this year, it would look even larger than that because our brain magnifies objects closer to the horizon. Nevertheless, you can test that it is just an optical illusion by overlaying a dime on the moon at arm’s length.
But the star of the show will be the Blood Moon, or the total lunar eclipse. A lunar eclipse needs a full moon and the earth to stand exactly between it and the sun. When that happens, our planet’s shadow is cast on the moon’s surface granting it a reddish tint. That’s what we will witness this weekend, weather permitting.
Scientists explain that the reddish color of the moon is due to sunlight passing through Earth’s atmosphere. The same mechanism is responsible for the beautifully red sunsets and sunrises across the Earth. Yet, ancient men saw in Blood Moons an omen for disaster.
And that belief still stands, as several rabbis and neoprotestants recently said that four total lunar eclipses in a row also known as “lunar tetrad” could spell incoming disasters or even the end of humanity.
On the other hand, there’s no need to panic. Astronomers said that there was no lunar tetrad this year because the April ‘total’ lunar eclipse, the third in the series, proved to be a partial lunar eclipse after scientists have switched to a new method of calculation for lunar eclipses.
This weekend’s total lunar eclipse is expected to last 1 h and 22 minutes. It will be visible from the Americas, Europe, Africa, and West Asia. But Europe and Africa will witness it on Monday morning, just before the sunrise.
Image Source: Wikimedia