Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson: Super Blood Moon Won’t Be That Super

There’s a lot of excitement about the “super blood moon” on Sunday night — a total lunar eclipse that will give the moon a reddish appearance. The excitement centers on a few different ideas. One is the notion expressed by some religious groups that a blood moon is tied to Biblical prophecy. More widespread is simply the anticipation of seeing a really amazing celestial sight.

Unfortunately, those who are hoping for a spectacular once-in-a-lifetime view may find themselves disappointed.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and science promoter, discussed the blood moon on Twitter today, explaining that while it will appear larger than usual, it won’t be much larger, and that the color won’t be as deep and bloody red as many may expect from the name.

The good news is that if you enjoy looking at the moon, you can still expect a beautiful and engaging sight — just don’t expect it to be too far out of the ordinary.

What’s more special about this moon than the appearance is timing, or rather, the frequency with which the type of lunar eclipses we refer to as a blood moon are currently occurring. Specifically, when four blood moons occur at approximately six-month intervals. According to NASA, while lunar eclipses of one type or another occur about twice a year, a tetrad of blood moons is much rarer. There will be a total of eight this century.

Sunday night’s lunar eclipse marks the fourth in this tetrad, and while the appearance may not be as dramatic as some, the rarity does make this a special event.

For some believers, the event is even more special, as they connect it to biblical prophecy. The Red Moon Rapture website lays out some of these prophecies, and how one group of believers feels that they connect to current events. Specifically, all four of the blood moon events in this tetrad fall on or quite near important events in the Jewish calendar, and the group believes it could be a sign that the Rapture is imminent. As with most rapture predictions, though, this largely comes from a few outlying groups, not from any mainstream belief systems.

The super blood moon event has also inspired a number of new rumors around the internet, including a prediction of fifteen days without sun in November. Myth debunking site Snopes has declared this one false.

So, if you’ve been looking forward to this month’s super blood moon as a sign of the end times, an unbelievably massive celestial vision, or a harbinger of two weeks of darkness, you may expect disappointment. If you’re simply looking forward to a pretty sight, and a relatively rare lunar event, you may be in luck. Check Time and Date to learn if, and exactly when, it will be visible in your location.

[Photo Credits: David McNew/Getty Images, Joe Raedy/Getty Images]