September 27, 2015 will bring a supermoon lunar eclipse at nightfall. The last lunar eclipse of this magnitude occurred in 1982, and the next one of a similar magnitude will be in 2033. A lesser lunar eclipse will come in 2018.
The lunar eclipse part of this phenomenon, according CTV, is caused by the Earth inserting itself between the sun and the moon. As this happens, the Earth casts its shadow on the face of the moon.
The “blood moon” effect is caused by the fiery ring around the earth with the sun directly behind it, its shadowed face turned to the moon. The thin glimmer from the sunrise-sunset encircling the darkened earth, hits the moon surface and reflects back as a reddish glow. The moon takes on the color of blood.
A sizeable moon, referred to as a “supermoon,” happens because in its orbit, the moon will be closer to the earth than at any other time, just about 385,000 kilometres away. The closeness will make the moon appear up to 14 percent larger than usual.
According to NASA, Sunday’s supermoon lunar eclipse will be seen by people in North and South America, Europe, Africa, and parts of West Asia and the eastern Pacific. The show begins at 8:11 p.m. EDT with a shadow creeping up on the moon through 9:07 p.m. EDT. The total eclipse will begin at 10:11 p.m. EDT and will peak at 10:47 p.m. EDT.
Live Science indicates that the duration of the full total eclipse will be 1 hour and 12 minutes.
A NASA illustration shows the moon phasing through alterations in appearance. The supermoon will take on a dimming at 8:45 p.m. through 9:40 p.m., and reddening at 10:15 p.m. through 10:47 to 11:23 p.m., at which time a black shadow will begin manifesting. A dimming effect will occur from 12 a.m. to 12:50 a.m., all times in Eastern Daylight Time.
In a CNN report, Noah Petro, scientist for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, explained that the combination of a supermoon and eclipse happening at the same time is just planetary dynamics. He gave the following configuration.
“When the rhythms line up, you might get three to four eclipses in a row or a supermoon and an eclipse happening.”
A lunar eclipse is relatively commonplace with occurrences two times a year. But, the wonder elicited by the heavenly spectacle has led people to seek hidden meanings, dire warnings or other metaphysical attributes behind it all.
The “blood moon” has been traditionally associated with the foretelling of cataclysms, of nations rising up against nations and other end-of-days scenarios. According to the Christian Science Monitor, concerned Mormon leaders sent a memo to teachers in their high schools and colleges advising them to be judicious when reading the apocalyptic leanings of Mormon author Julie Rowe‘s books.
Rowe relates a near-death experience in 2004 that inspired her writings. She recalls how she crossed into a spirit world where she saw calamities and was told to share this vision with others in the future. Her teachings are believed to have inspired some Mormon groups into making preparations against some major disaster of earthshaking proportions.
The church memo made it clear that while Rowe is an active Mormon, the church does not endorse her books nor should they be recommended as teaching material.
Live Science solicited some feedback from Arty Kunhardt, a member of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York. He explained what viewers could expect of the Sunday lunar eclipse.
“At first, all you’re going to see is the penumbra, a very light shadow. It’s not until later that the really dark part of the Earth’s shadow, called the ‘umbra’, will be visible. This is what you’ll see during the total eclipse.”
The lunar eclipse will also take some time to ramp up, Kunhardt cautioned.
[Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images]