Get ready for the ‘blood moons’: Rare series of lunar eclipses set to begin tonight

By Jonathan Block and Mark Prigg

The first of four rare ‘blood moon’ eclipses is set to happen tonight.The event, known as a ‘Tetrad’, is believed to mark the the beginning of significant events – even the second coming of Jesus Christ to a Christian minority.However, for the rest of us, it means a unique spectacle as a total lunar eclipse tonight will turn the moon a burnt reddish orange.

A previous total lunar eclipse as seen from Mexico city on December 21, 2010: tonight's will be visible across America from 2AM

A previous total lunar eclipse as seen from Mexico city on December 21, 2010: tonight’s will be visible across America from 2AM

WHEN WILL THEY HAPPEN?

The four blood moons will occur in roughly six-month intervals on the following dates:

  1. April 15, 2014
  2. October 8, 2014
  3. April 4, 2015
  4. September 28, 2015

The significance of the arrangement is that it happened exactly a week before the first of four dark red ‘blood moons,’ which some Christians believe marks a cycle associated with the end of the world.

Although lunar eclipses happen multiple times in a year during a full moon, this eclipse will be a particularly unusual viewing opportunity for North America.

Since the Earth’s Western Hemisphere will be facing the moon during the eclipse, the continent will be in prime position to view it from start to finish. In addition, the eclipse will coincide with nighttime in North America.

The entire continent won’t be able to witness a full lunar eclipse in its entirety again until 2019.

‘Sometimes they’ll happen and you’ll have to be somewhere else on Earth to see them,’ said Noah Petro, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter deputy project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

‘Most [residents] of the continental United States will be able to see the whole thing.’For those who are awake to watch the eclipse, which is scheduled to begin around 2:00 a.m. EDT and last over three hours, Petro said there would be several changes people can witness.

When the moon first enters the Earth’s partial shadow, know as the penumbra, a dark shadow will begin creeping across the moon. This will give the illusion that the moon is changing phases in a matter of minutes instead of weeks.

‘Eventually there will be a chunk of darkness eating the moon,’ Petro said.

WHAT TO EXPECT

A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes in the shadow of Earth. This is an area known as the umbra, where light from the Sun is blocked by our planet. The light refracts differently in the atmosphere and, as it hits the moon, it makes it appear red.

This gives rise to its ‘blood red’ appearance during a total eclipse, when the entire moon is in shadow. If it skirts the shadow, known as a partial or penumbral eclipse, the effect is less dramatic. The eclipse is scheduled to begin around 2:00 a.m. EDT and last over three hours.

When the moon first enters the Earth’s partial shadow, know as the penumbra, a dark shadow will begin creeping across the moon. This will give the illusion that the moon is changing phases in a matter of minutes instead of weeks.

At the eclipse’s peak, around 3:45 a.m. EDT, the moon will enter the Earth’s full shadow, the umbra. At this stage, the Earth’s atmosphere will scatter the sun’s red visible light, the same process that turns the sky red at sunset. As a result, the red light will reflect off the moon’s surface, casting a reddish rust hue over it.

Total lunar eclipse to bring an impressive red blood moon

It’s not often that we get a chance to see our planet’s shadow, but a lunar eclipse gives us a fleeting glimpse. During these rare events, the full Moon rapidly darkens and then glows red. Though a lunar eclipse can be seen only at night, it’s worth staying up to catch the show.

At the eclipse’s peak, around 3:45 a.m. EDT, the moon will enter the Earth’s full shadow, the umbra. At this stage, the Earth’s atmosphere will scatter the sun’s red visible light, the same process that turns the sky red at sunset.

Where to see it: The total sclipse will be visible over most of North America

Where to see it: The total sclipse will be visible over most of North America

As a result, the red light will reflect off the moon’s surface, casting a reddish rust hue over it. ‘It’s a projection of all the Earth’s sunsets and sunrises onto the moon,’ Petro said. ‘It’s a very subtle effect, and if any part of the moon is illuminated in the sun, you can’t really see it. They don’t happen all the time, and the sky has to be clear. It really gives you a chance to look at the moon changing.’

However, some believe the eclipse has larger significance.

The unusual alignment of the sun, Earth and Mars Tuesday night happened a week before the beginning of another astrological event that some believe is associated with the end of the world

The unusual alignment of the sun, Earth and Mars Tuesday night happened a week before the beginning of another astrological event that some believe is associated with the end of the world

John Hagee, a Christian pastor who has written a book on the Tetrad called ‘Four Blood Moons: Something is About to Change’ told the Daily Express that Tuesday night marked the dawn of a ‘hugely significant event’ for the world.

‘This is not something that some religious think tank has put together,’ the notoriously outspoken church founder said. ‘Nasa has confirmed that the Tetrad has only happened three times in more than 500 years — and that it’s going to happen now.’

Also known as the ‘Tetrad’, since it involves four successive total ‘blood-red’ lunar eclipses each followed by six full moons, Nasa has confirmed it started Tuesday night and will end on September 28, 2015.

In the 21st century, tetrads are a frequent occurrence, with nine sets in total, but this has not always been the case. From 1600 to 1900, for example, there were none at all.

Tonight begins a cycle known as the 'Tetrad,' which involves a series of four dark red 'blood moons.' At the end of the cycle in September 2015, some believe the end of the world will happen

Tonight begins a cycle known as the ‘Tetrad,’ which involves a series of four dark red ‘blood moons.’ At the end of the cycle in September 2015, some believe the end of the world will happen

The Book of Joel in the King James Bible prophesied about the blood moons and the end of the world: ‘The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD comes.’

According to Mr Hagee, each time the Tetrad has happened during that time, there has been a significant religious event accompanied with it.

In 1493, the first Tetrad saw the expulsion of Jews by the Catholic Spanish Inquisition.

The second happened in 1949, right after the State of Israel was founded.

And the most recent one, in 1967, happened during the Six-Day War between Arabs and Israelis.

This graphic explains why Mars was so visible to the naked eye on Tuesday night

This graphic explains why Mars was so visible to the naked eye on Tuesday night

Mr Hagee said the the first of the blood moons will happen on April 15, right in the middle of the Jewish holiday of Passover. The second, on October 8, occurs during the Feast of the Tabernacle. The third will be on April 4, 2015, also during Passover. The final one happens on September 28, 2015, also during the Feast of the Tabernacles.- “DM”


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