Get ready for the headline sky event of 2015: Coming up next week is the Blood Moon – also called the MegaMoon. Or the Mega-Harvest Moon. Or the Hyper-Mega-Harvest Blood Moon. We could even label it a total lunar eclipse.
It really is a rare event. Imagine: The Full Moon – the Harvest Moon, no less – goes into Earth’s shadow to create a total lunar eclipse at the same hour that it arrives at its closest to Earth of the entire year. And it happens at a convenient hour: just after 9 p.m.
It deserves headlines. Where the hype comes in is, while astronomers dryly label a lunar close approach “perigee,” the media the past few years calls such a nearby Moon a “MegaMoon.” And if it happens on the same night that it’s full, then watch out: We have a Mega Full Moon.
And when the Full Moon goes into Earth’s shadow, astronomers call it a total lunar eclipse. We typically see one every couple of years, although this is an unusual time in that we’ve had four in the past two years. The media have started referring to total lunar eclipses as “Blood Moons.” While a fully eclipsed Moon does turn a ruddy color, I suspect that the label derives from Bible passages such as Revelation 6:12:
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;
…which kind of suggests that the end of the world is approaching.
No matter that a fully eclipsed Moon actually turns coppery-red like a penny – more like orange – and not remotely red like blood. Anyone with blood the color of an eclipsed Moon should go to the emergency room. None of that matters. What’s important is that you’re going to hear about this event increasingly during the coming days, and it may sound like something scary or dangerous. Mega-Harvest-Blood Moon. If this doesn’t get the coyotes howling, nothing will.
It’s not dangerous, although we really can expect the year’s highest tides that day and the next. It’s on Sunday night, September 27. We’ll tell you what to look for and other juicy details and tidbits next week. But before we get to it, we’ve got the Autumnal Equinox this Wednesday, the 23rd. It’s at 4:21 a.m. You’ll go to sleep in summer and wake up in fall.
You know the drill: Days and nights are equal. (Except they’re not: There are more minutes of sunshine than non-sun that day). The Sun rises and sets precisely due east and due west. Around here, sunrise and sunset are both at very nearly 7 p.m. And equinoxes are the only time when everyone on Earth – even those at each of the poles – see the sun shining. So it’s a happy feel-good kind of thing, even if it officially closes out our beloved summer season.
So we’ll celebrate the Equinox and then, next week, get into the details of that total eclipse of the largest Full Moon of 2015, on the night of the Harvest Moon. Cool stuff.
Want to know more? To read Bob’s previous “Night Sky” columns, visit our Almanac Weekly website at HudsonValleyAlmanacWeekly.com.