As the night grew late and the day transformed from April 14 to April 15, 2014, thousands of people were treated to a sight that is not seen all that often – the so-called “blood moon.” If you missed this one, not to worry, because this was only the first of a rare lunar tetrad, a series of four blood moons that are to occur over the span of the year. Curious about the details on this astronomical event? Read on to discover all you need to know about the blood moon, including upcoming viewing dates and locations.
What is a Blood Moon?
You probably haven’t heard the term “blood moon” often before, if ever. This is because it is not a scientific term but rather one made popular by two modern Christian ministers as some sort of prophetic symbol. It refers to the four total lunar eclipses that will occur this year, a phenomenon that has not occurred since 1967-1968. When any total lunar eclipse occurs, the moon almost always appears to be a brownish-red color, which is perhaps the reason behind the blood moon moniker. The interesting thing about the 2014-2015 tetrad is that the dates of the lunar eclipses coincide with two major Jewish holidays, the feast of the Passover and the feast of Tabernacles. The pastors mentioned above see this as an ominous sign of the end of days, as described in Joel 2:31.
In ancient times, the Mayans believed that the lunar eclipse was a result of a jaguar swallowing the moon. You can’t really fault them for seeking an explanation and trying to make sense of such an unusual site. Nowadays, we know that the eclipse is merely the result of the moon passing through the shadow of the Earth. The moon never looks entirely dark, because some of the light from the sun is shining through the Earth’s atmosphere and scattered onto the moon. Additionally, there is a lot of dirt and dust in the air, and this can make things look reddish, as well, just as we see during sunsets.
Dates of Blood Moons
While it is fairly rare, a tetrad of lunar eclipses has occurred before and will occur again in the future. History and science tell us that tetrads or blood moons also came to pass in the following years:
- 162-163 A.D.
- 795-796 A.D.
- 842-843 A.D.
- 860-861 A.D.
- 1493-1494 A.D.
That means that it’s been 46 years since this has happened, making it something that definitely gets the attention of the masses when it does occur.
Upcoming Blood Moon Events
The next blood moon event will take place in the fall, on October 8, 2014. After that, the next lunar eclipses are on April 4, 2015, and September 28, 2015. All of these events will be visible in the majority of the United States and North America. Plan to see the October 8th blood moon just before dawn in the central United States, and the April 4, 2015, blood moon occurs just before sunrise in the United States, as well. The final blood moon event occurs after sunset.
Unlike solar eclipse events, lunar eclipses are much easier to view because there is not potential for damage to the eyes. Find out when the blood moon is at its optimal state in your area, and then find a good spot without a lot of light pollution. Lunar eclipses are fantastic subjects for photographers, and time lapse photos are particularly dazzling. You can easily see the eclipse with the naked eye, but some viewers may also like to bring binoculars and/or a telescope for a more magnified and detailed view.
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