24 April 2014
Well, the moon’s been in the news lately. Just a few nights ago, I was outside and looked up to see the moon almost covered by a dark grey shadow. But even through the shadow, I could see the silhouette of the round moon, but it was dark red.
I checked the internet and found a few stories about the “Blood Moon.”
So, what’s a “Blood Moon?” Even though I’ve been an amateur astronomer for many, many years, I don’t get a lot of chances to look up into the sky, and this latest eclipse took me surprise. Even more surprising was a strange new name for an eclipse: “Blood Moon.”
“Blood Moon” is a new term. I know it sounds old and mythological or like something from an ancient legend, but the “Blood Moon” is something new. There’ve been a few novels and stories with the words “blood” and “moon” in the titles. But I’ve never heard of the term used to describe an eclipse before.
As near as I can tell, this is the first time anyone has called an eclipse a blood moon. But considering that the eclipsed moon always appears to be dark red, maybe “Blood Moon” isn’t such a bad name. But, before I go on . . .
A lunar eclipse happens when the earth comes between the sun and moon. The earth literally casts a shadow directly on the moon. Considering the speed of the moon, the shadow steals over the moon suddenly. The whole process can be over in less than two hours. A lunar eclipse always happens at the time of the full moon, so the sudden darkening of the moon stands out.
During a lunar eclipse, the moon is “said” to disappear. But it never does. You see something that looks like a thick dark grey cloud suddenly begin to cover the moon. But, after the moon is covered, if you look carefully, you’ll notice that you can always see the round circle of the moon. But the eclipsed moon is very dark and always distinctly red-ish. In other words, all eclipses produce a red moon.
Next question. What’s a “tetrad?” Well, I’ve been an amateur astronomer for many years, and I’d never heard of a “tetrad” before. Tetrad means “four” of something, but I’d never heard the words applied to the moon or lunar eclipses. There are some good definitions of a “tetrad” of lunar eclipses, but they were just a bit hard to find.
The “tetrad,” refers to four eclipses: the first one just happened and there are three more to come. What makes these four eclipses so special? It’s the timing. After last week’s lunar eclipse, there will be six full moons. Then, during the seventh full moon, there will be another lunar eclipse. Then, after this second lunar eclipse, there will, again, be another six full moons. Then, during the seventh full moon, there will be a third lunar eclipse. After this third eclipse, there will be another six full moons. Then, during the seventh full moon, (you guessed it,) there will another, the fourth, lunar eclipse.
So, we have four eclipses with exactly six full moons between each eclipse. And there are no, even partial, eclipses in between each of the four. That’s “the tetrad.” We assume that, after the fourth eclipse of the tetrad, the next eclipse will break the pattern. If, of course, there’s another eclipse after this tetrad is over.
What would stop future eclipses? The end of time.
The term “Blood Moon” has never been used to describe an eclipse or a tetrad before. But two Christian pastors, Mark Blitz and John Hagee, have described the eclipses of this tetrad as the “Blood Moons.” Maybe that’s why the term has started popping up. One of the two, John Hagee, has written the book, Four Blood Moons: Something is About to Change. Apparently, the moon is supposed to turn blood red just before the end of time.
I, for one, hope that we’re not all heading for our “final” three eclipses. But, one way or another, mark you calendars:
1st Eclipse: April 14-15, 2014
2nd Eclipse: October 7-8, 2014
3rd Eclipse: April 4, 2015
4th Eclipse: September 28, 2015