Night owls across much of North America had the chance to witness a total lunar eclipse on Tuesday. It is the first time the Earth, moon and sun have been in exact alignment for two and a half years.
The event led to some stunning sights for those who braved the early hours to get a glimpse of the rare occurrence, with the moon changing color from bright orange to a blood red and brown, depending on the local weather conditions. Los Angeles and Dallas were two cities which had the best views of the phenomenon.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon and the sun are on opposite sides of the Earth. This actually happens quite frequently, but it is rare for the alignment to be just right so that the Earth blocks out all the sun’s light and the moon goes almost completely dark. This is the first of four total eclipses, which will take place roughly every six months for the next two years. This is known as a tetrad and is very uncommon. The next one will be in 2032.
Ed Krupp, director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles said, “The fact that there are four lunar successions coming this year and next ... is unusual, but it's not the kind of thing astronomers get worked up about. It doesn't really mean anything, and it's a chance arrangement of gravity and the motions of objects in the solar system, primarily the Earth and moon.”
Before the eclipse occurred, a small group of Christians believed the event was a biblical prophecy, which would lead to the end of the world.
John Hagee, pastor and author of ‘Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change,’ cited Joel 2:31 as evidence, which says: "The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come."
Proponents of this biblical prophecy also say it coincides with two important Jewish holidays – Passover and Tabernacles – contributing to the significance of the event.
However, writing for EarthSky.org, Bruce McClure and Deborah Byrd say that it’s no surprise that full moons coincide with important Jewish holidays, as the Jewish calendar is, after all, a lunar calendar.
“In any year, it’s inevitable that a full moon should fall on or near the feasts of Passover (15 Nissan) and Tabernacles (15 Tishri). Nissan and Tishri are the first and seventh months of the Jewish calendar, respectively,” they explained.