It will be the longest blood moon of the twenty-first century. There have been books and articles about “blood moons” in recent years relating them to prophecies of various kinds. However, this event will not be a miraculous sign of some impending doom or destruction. It will not be a sign of the second coming of Christ. This lunar eclipse is an entirely natural phenomenon.
A so-called “blood moon” is actually an eclipse of the Moon. Most of the time, we see the light of the Sun reflected from the Moon. When Earth, Moon, and Sun are perfectly aligned with our planet in the middle, the Moon becomes covered by Earth’s shadow. Since Earth is much larger than the Moon, it can throw a shadow across the entire Moon. That is what will happen at 4:21 p.m. U.S. Eastern Daylight Time on July 27. However, it will not be visible in the United States. A partial eclipse will be visible in most parts of the Eastern Hemisphere, and it will be total in Africa, the Middle East, and part of Asia.
Why does the Moon appear red or orange during a lunar eclipse giving it the name “blood moon?” That’s because as the Sun’s light passes through Earth’s atmosphere, it is filtered and bent so that a small amount of light reaches the Moon’s surface. We see the effect of our atmosphere on sunlight when we watch the red-orange colors of a sunrise or sunset. If you were on the surface of the Moon, you would see that sunset effect as a halo around the Earth. Looking at the Moon from Earth, we see the reflection of that sunrise/sunset glow reflected back to us. The Moon takes on an eerie, but faint blood-red glow.
This lunar eclipse will be the longest blood moon of the century because of a near-perfect alignment of Earth between the Sun and Moon. From beginning to end, this eclipse will last almost four hours. The period of totality will be an hour and 43 minutes. The next lunar eclipse visible in North America will be on January 21, 2019, and it will last only an hour and two minutes. How do we know these statistics? We can know when lunar (and solar) eclipses will occur because we know how they happen. We know that our solar system is very orderly and predictable because it is well designed.
In ancient times eclipses caused people to panic. People in ancient Mesopotamia thought an eclipse was an attack by demons. The Inca people in fifteenth-century South America would shake spears and make noise to scare away what they believed was a jaguar attacking the Moon. There is a story that Christopher Columbus and his men were stranded for six months on the island now known as Jamaica. The indigenous Arawak people became less than generous in sharing food. Columbus knew from an almanac that a total lunar eclipse was about to happen. He told the local people that his God was angry and would take away the Moon in three days. When Columbus’ prediction seemed to come true, the Arawaks were terrified. They gave Columbus’ crew whatever they wanted to bring the Moon back. Amazingly, the Moon returned to normal, and everyone was happy.
So as the longest blood moon of the century comes and goes, don’t let anyone try to tell you it is some kind of miraculous sign. After all, we can’t predict miracles. The only miracle that was clearly (and repeatedly) predicted in advance and which actually happened was the resurrection of Jesus.
–Roland Earnst © 2018