Rare 'blood moon' eclipse to be visible this week
Kendra Mangione, CTVNews.ca
Published Sunday, April 13, 2014 7:15AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, April 13, 2014 3:05PM EDT
Star-gazers will be treated to a "blood moon" lunar eclipse early Tuesday morning, the first of four red eclipses expected over the next year and a half.
Early Tuesday morning, the moon will be eclipsed by Earth's shadow for the first time this year, visible across the Western Hemisphere from approximately 3 a.m. ET to 4:24 a.m.
Experts predict that the moon will glow an eerie red-orange shade, a phenomenon astronomers call a "blood moon" or "hunter's moon."
The colour is caused by the light from sunsets and sunrises glinting off the surface of the Earth. As sun light bends around outer edges of the planet, the light beams into the Earth's shadow, transforming the Moon into a rust-coloured orb. The effect is similar to that of the sun turning the clouds red or pink during a sunrise or sunset.
NASA describes the phenomenon as if a person standing on the moon was "seeing every sunrise and every sunset in the world, all of them, all at once."
On April 15, the full moon will be darkened by the shadow of the Earth, producing an eclipse visible across North America and setting in motion a lunar "tetrad."
Three more total eclipses are expected at six-month intervals: the second on Oct. 8 will be followed by a third eclipse on April 4 and a fourth on Sept. 28 of next year.
A sign of impending doom?
The four eclipses that will take place between Tuesday morning and September 2015 have caught the eye of conspiracy theorists across the Internet, much like the hysteria surrounding the Mayan prophecy that the world would end on Dec. 21, 2012.
Conspiracy websites draw parallels between lunar eclipses and historical events, like the fall of Constantinople and the founding of the State of Israel. The last blood moon occurred in 2004 on the night the Red Sox won the World Series.
The blood moons, coupled with a rare alignment between Mars, Earth and the sun the week prior, has some conspiracy theorists predicting the second coming of Jesus Christ or the end of the world.
Last year, author and pastor John Hagee published a book called "Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change," which suggested a link between the new lunar tetrad and a biblical prophecy about the apocalypse.
The King James Bible's Book of Joel, 2:31, states: "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come."
Many conspiracy theories also cite a biblical verse from Revelations 6:12: "There was a great earthquake. The Sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair. The whole Moon turned blood red."
Other theories point out that the tetrad dates coincide with Passover (April 15, 2014 and April 4, 2015) and the Jewish observance of Sukkot (Oct. 8, 2014 and Sept. 28, 2015), though this is not exactly a coincidence: both holidays are scheduled based on moon cycles.
However, tetrads like the one that is approaching have been fairly common in the last 14 years. According to NASA, there have been nine sets of tetrads during the 21st century.
After the final blood moon rises in September 2015, the next tetrad is predicted to begin on April 25, 2032.