‘Blood Moon’ rises: Total lunar eclipse over the US

Reuters/Aly Song
The moon will pass through the Earth’s shadow and turn blood-red in the early hours of the morning on Saturday, in a brief total eclipse best visible from the western part of the US.

It will be the third in a series of four total lunar eclipses, or a “tetrad,” that began in mid-April last year. The second occurred in October 2014, and the last will be on September 28 this year. Tetrads are very rare: only seven more are expected by the year 2100.

Saturday’s eclipse will also be the shortest in a century, with the moon spending just four minutes and 43 seconds completely in Earth’s shadow. However, the time it will take for the moon to become completely occluded will be abnormally long, a whole 102 minutes, writes Space.com. This is because the moon will have just reached apogee, its farthest point from the Earth.

As the moon skims the edge of the planet’s shadow, it will turn a shade of red.

This is happening because the sunlight that’s reaching the moon is just the sunlight bending through the Earth’s atmosphere,” NASA scientist Michelle Thaller explained last year. “The same reason that a sunset is red: the Earth’s atmosphere scatters away blue light, but lets red light through.”

The eclipse will be visible from all parts of the US, though those in the east will only see the beginning stages before the 06:16 ET sunrise. People in the west will have a full view of the total eclipse, at 04:58 PT.

Read More: 'Blood Moon' is here: Rare lunar eclipse to be visible from Earth

While the lunar eclipse is a fascinating astronomical phenomenon, some see deeper religious significance in it. Saturday will be the first night of Passover for the Jews, and Easter Vigil for Christians that follow the Gregorian calendar.

The current tetrad is only the fourth time in 500 years that all four ‘blood moons’ fall on Jewish holidays, one Israeli website reported. It quoted a mystic rabbi from the south of the country, who said the eclipse was a sign Israel faced “great judgment and potential danger.”

Some Evangelical Christian preachers in the US have pointed at the Biblical prophecy that says: “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.” (Joel, 2:31, KJV).

A full solar eclipse occurred on March 20, in the middle of the current lunar tetrad.