John Hagee is wrong. The flamboyant and ego-inflated pastor of the huge Cornerstone megachurch of San Antonio likes prophecy and signs in the sky. He believes the sky is “God’s billboard,” and that God is writing messages on it for us. The “super blood moon” is supposed to be one of those messages. Not for the first time, Pastor John Hagee is wrong. (No, he’s not the only one. Others are making similar claims. He’s just probably the most prominent one.)
Super Blood Moon Schedule
There is nothing mysterious or even very unusual about the eclipse we’re going to have in a couple of days. Even the word “super” is misleading. Yes, because of its position in orbit, it’ll look a little bit larger than usual; but not so much you’re likely to notice it. Take all the hype with a grain of salt.
In just two days, on the night of Sunday, September 27th, 2015, if the weather permits, a “rare super blood moon” lunar eclipse will be visible in the night sky for people in North and South America. (Well, it’s unusual, but not really all that rare.)
Here’s the schedule. For most of the country, the moon will be low above the eastern horizon. For people in Colorado, it’ll be in eclipse when it rises. It’ll begin to move into the earth’s shadow at 9:07 P.M. Eastern Time. The eclipse will begin with a bite out of its lower left side.
It’ll take just over an hour for the moon to pass completely into earth’s shadow, and its last sliver will slip into darkness at 10:11. It’ll stay dark for more than an hour; then start to lighten again at 11:23, and be completely out of earth’s shadow at 27 minutes after midnight. Don’t forget to adjust for your time zone.
People in Europe and Africa can see the eclipse in the early hours after midnight.
A “super moon” is when the moon is nearest Earth in its orbit, so it appears as much as 14% larger than when it is farther away. This happens because its orbit around earth — like all orbits — is an ellipse, not a circle.
A “blood moon” is an eclipse when the moon happens to be exactly — or almost exactly — in the plane of earth’s orbit around the sun. The moon’s orbit around earth is tilted about five degrees with respect to earth’s orbit around the sun, so the moon crosses the plane of earth’s orbit about every 14 days.
When this coincides with a lunar eclipse, earth comes between the sun and the moon, almost shutting off all light from the sun to the moon. The only sunlight reaching the moon then is refracted around the earth by its atmosphere. Instead of going dark, the moon is lit dimly by that refracted light that leaks around the planet, essentially refracting all of Earth’s sunsets and sunrises onto the surface of the moon at one time and giving it a deep reddish color. We have a “blood moon.”
When the two events happen together, like this time, we call it a “super blood moon” lunar eclipse. It’s unusual, but it’s not mysterious; and there’s absolutely nothing supernatural about it.
The next total lunar eclipse won’t happen until January 2018. If you miss this one for any reason, you can view it here later: Missed the Blood Moon? Watch the Event Unfold Through NASA’s Footage.
Here’s Neil DeGrasse Tyson, everybody’s favorite astrophysicist, discussing a previous “blood moon.”
For more information about eclipses in general, watch Crash Course Astronomy with Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer.