I’m continuing to get scared PM's and posts to our Doomsday Debunked Facebook group about the lunar eclipse on 31st January. There is nothing at all to worry about. You’ve had lunar eclipses like this many times in your life and never noticed. Now it appears in Facebook Trending with comments - and many people, children and adults, get scared of it, with panic attacks. Some of the PM's and comments I get are verging on suicide about this.
For a shorter version of this, see my Short summary - why the super blue blood moon on Jan 31 can’t harm us
Their fears are based on comments (first reported in the Daily Star) by Facebook users who take a passage from the Bible that is often used for false prophecy and then claim that it refers to the eclipse of the Moon.
The passage in question doesn't much resemble a description of a lunar eclipse. For instance, it describes stars falling out of the sky. According to modern understanding it's not possible for stars to fall out of the sky as they are large suns like our own and larger a vast distance away - this Biblical passage dates back to a time when everyone, astronomers included, thought that stars were tiny specks of light etched onto an all encompassing distant crystal sphere which was the edge of the universe in their cosmology. Nothing like this happens during a lunar eclipse. Indeed, if anything, you see more faint stars during the eclipse if you view it from a dark sight as it gives an opportunity for your eyes to get a bit more dark adapted.
These Facebook commentators in turn only knew about the lunar eclipse because of the astronomers. They couldn't predict an eclipse of the moon if their life depended on it.
So first, Facebook Trending is not a reliable news source. It is just a rag bag of whatever is going viral at the moment. They have some automatic filtering that is supposed to get rid of the worst nonsense - but there is no human oversight. It has often served up fake news in the past.
See this article in the Washington Post from last year
The Moon is far away and it can't harm us in any possible way it is just doing its thing as it has done for billions of years. There is nothing there that cares about us.
And the red light from the sunsets and sunrises won't make any difference to us. It may be red, orange brown, yellow or just a somewhat nondescript dark gray. Depends on the weather. It's like being scared of a sunset.
It’s just like when you see the sun shining on a distant mountain and lighting that mountain up with the red of the setting sun. There is nothing dangerous about that.
It’s like this. Actually this is very similar to the colour of an eclipsed moon, the light of the sun shining on a rocky face of Mount Everest. The lunar rock is rather similar and the Moon is often an orange or yellow colour like this during a lunar eclipse:
Here by comparison is an eclipse of the Moon from October 2014, this one is taken from California. It’s more often like this than it is like those dramatic red ones that get shared a lot:
Sometimes it is more of a yellow colour.
Here is another Everest sunset photo showing the yellow colour
As with a sunset or sunrise, the colour of the Moon during the eclipse depends on the atmospheric conditions. Water vapour, clouds, dust in the atmosphere. At other times it may be brown, or even more of a dull gray, or a reddish brown. It’s only rather rarely the brighter red of some of the videos that get shared so often.
Here is a video taken of a lunar eclipse:
So what is an eclipse of the Moon?
It just means that the Moon passes through the shadow of the Earth. It always happens at full Moon when the Moon is the opposite side of the Earth from the sun.
A supermoon is when the Moon is close to the Earth during full Moon. The Moon is sometimes closer and sometimes further away - and that happens every month. But sometimes it is closest at new moon, sometimes at waxing crescent, at first half Moon etc and sometimes it is closest at full Moon - that happens roughly once a year.
The next time the Moon is close to Earth during a lunar eclipse - the next supermoon total eclipse is Jan. 21, 2019. That one will also be visible from the US.
So there is nothing rare about a super blood moon or super moon total eclipse.
The only thing unusual about this one is that it is also a blue moon. That is not something you can see in the sky. It means the second full moon in the same calendar month.
This is nothing to do with astronomy. It’s just a feature of our calendar. The calendar is the result of a decision by Pope Gregory XIII
So yes - a blue moon total eclipse supermoon is rare. So what?
I think NASA are partly responsible here. Or rather, their press release writers. They often write these breathless excited press releases about non events. Here is their excited announcement about this ‘Super Blue Blood Moon’ Coming Jan. 31
“If you live in the western part of North America, Alaska, and the Hawaiian islands, you might set your alarm early the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 31 for a lunar trifecta: a pre-dawn “super blue blood moon.” “
It is a lunar eclipse - but you get those normally once or twice a year. Many won’t be visible where you are, as it has to be night time to see them - so anyone on the daytime side of Earth at the time misses it. You also need clear weather - so for instance in cloudy Scotland where I live it is a bit rare to see one. But even so most people have had an opportunity to see a lunar total eclipse many times in their lifetime.
It is a supermoon, again so what, the next supermoon lunar eclipse is in January 2019.
And who really cares how many full Moons there are in January?
This one is in the early morning - for those who get up early you see it over breakfast or maybe on your way to work. Sleep in and you miss it.
You have to be in the night side of Earth to see it.
The thing is the Moon can rise any time of day or night. But at times of lunar eclipse the Moon is directly the opposite side of Earth from the sun. So it rises as the sun sets and sets as the sun rises.
Where I live then the sun rises in the SE at present and sets in the SW. The Moon will rise as the sun sets in the NE - directly opposite it - and then travel high around the sky (similarly to a summer sun here) and then set in the NW as the sun rises in the SE. And sadly - as I live in the UK, I miss this eclipse. It will be daylight for me. You can see the Moon fine in daylight - but at full Moon the Moon will always be below the horizon when the sun is up in the sky, no matter where you are on the surface of Earth.
Lunar eclipses don’t hit the news in the way a solar eclipse does. And nowadays few people spend their lives out of doors or if they do, in bright city environments, and reading their mobile phone messages. They probably wouldn’t notice a lunar eclipse unless it is on the news.
Also - you sometimes have to get up in the early hours of the morning to see it. And - the whole event usually lasts hours - the shadow of Earth slowly moving across the Moon. But the eclipse itself may last only a few minutes - though it can last a lot longer. But it is easy to miss it. You need to set an alarm to make sure you go out and see it.
So for those reasons - unless you have friends interested in astronomy or are out of doors a lot - you may well have lived through many lunar eclipses and not even known that if you were to go out and look at the night sky you would see an unusually coloured Moon :)
There is absolutely nothing to be scared of here.
Concorde could cross the Atlantic in less than 7 hours. This video shows what it was like to fly in Concorde as a passenger:
Of course Concorde can’t fly to the Moon. The astronauts took a couple of days to get there, flying far faster than Concorde. But if you were to fly at the speed of concorde, then instead of 3.5 hours, which it takes to cross the Atlantic then it would take you a little over 7 days. A full week of flying non stop day and night.
I hope that gives you an idea of how far away the Moon is. And it is just doing its thing. At a vast distance gracefully orbiting Earth as it has done for billions of years and will continue to do so for billions of years.
The light of sunsets and sunrises from Earth falling on the very distant Moon will not harm you in any way whatsoever.
It’s just a rather beautiful sight, to see the Moon, normally white, with the Earth’s shadow slowly move across it - and then change colour in response to those distant sunrises and sunsets.
Maybe some day in the future we will have astronauts on the Moon who can watch it from there, and see the landscape change colour around them.
Astronauts have seen the sun pass behind the Earth from space. This is a short video of the sun going behind the Earth, as seen by the Apollo 12 crew, Conrad, Gordon and Bean, on their journey back to Earth from the Moon.
She also did a composite of a photo and a painting that was published as the Astronomy picture of the day on 2nd March 2007. This gives an idea of what a lunar eclipse would look like from the Moon if we had astronauts there or a camera during a lunar eclipse. This hasn’t happened to date, it’s an artist’s impression and not a photograph:
This would make the landscape go red, pink, orange, brown or yellow in colour. Here is a much older artist’s impression that actually predates Apollo. The landscape here is based just on observations made of the Moon by telescope from Earth - the artist did a pretty good job given the data he had:
This painting of the Earth as seen from the Moon during an eclipse is by Lucien Rudaux, space artist, living in first half of the twentieth century.
Incidentally, this was painted long before anyone had ever visited the Moon. When most space artists were painting jagged mountains, he pointed out that the mountains were clearly rounded through a telescope, especially when silhouetted against the edge of the disk, writing: "If we reconstruct geometrically the outlines of certain lunar mountains from their observed appearance, we shall find that instead of being steep and jagged, they have quite gentle slopes and their summits are frequently flat or smoothly rounded." - The first science artist to draw accurate pictures of Mars and the Moon
For more on this, see Why a totally eclipsed moon looks red | EarthSky.org
And here is a video simulation of a lunar eclipse from the Moon, by Ernie Wright, for NASA.
"In the early morning hours of April 15, 2014, the Moon enters the Earth’s shadow, creating a total lunar eclipse. When viewed from the Moon, as in this animation, the Earth hides the Sun. A red ring, the sum of all Earth’s sunrises and sunsets, lines the Earth’s limb and casts a ruddy light on the lunar landscape. With the darkness of the eclipse, the stars come out.
"The city lights of North and South America are visible on the night side of the Earth. The part of the Earth visible in this animation is the part where the lunar eclipse can be seen."
Lunar eclipse of 15th April 2014, seen from the Moon.
Who knows, maybe some of the younger ones amongst my readers will get to see these sights for themselves from the lunar surface, once transport to the Moon gets easier in the future.
See also my
EXTERNAL LINKS ON BLOOD MOONS
- Debunked: Scared because the Sun and Moon rise at different times in different places each day, and sometimes the Moon is visible in daytime.
- Debunked - the Moon isn’t real - it’s a ‘Moon simulator’
- Debunked: Why is the Moon so large and why does it move so quickly through the sky? by Robert Walker on Debunking Doomsday
- Why it’s normal to see the Moon in daytime and other fun facts about moon phases by Robert Walker on Debunking Doomsday
- Debunked: Supermoon on 14th November 2017 is the beginning of the end of the world
- September 24th, 2015 - Just Another Day In Space - Asteroid Flybys, "Blood Moons" And Armageddon Demystified (This was my first proper Doomsday Debunking post ever, on my Science 2.0 blog - and some of this answer uses the material from there on ‘Blood Moons’)
For more like this, see also List of the articles in my Debunking Doomsday blog to date and you can try searching that page for a word like “Nibiru” or “Yellowstone” or whatever to find articles of interest.
Also if you want to help make a difference, you can sign and share these petitions- and do have a look at the comments to get an idea of the scale of the problem. Click “Join Conversation” to see more of them.
- To Google - please do something about the nonsense in Google News!
- To Youtube: Halt Ads on Doomsday Videos
- To Journalists: Debunk Rather than Dramatize "Doomsday" Stories - The Vulnerable Get Suicidal
You may also be interested in my:
- Google News Without The Nonsense. It’s much the same as Google News, with the sensationalist nonsense fake news filtered out. Try sorting it “by relevance” as well as “by date”
And if you need help - well message me of course and comment on any of these posts - and you can also join our Facebook group Doomsday Debunked. .
You can post there about stories that scare you and get replies from others who help debunk them. Or you can join the No Scary Posts version which only gives debunks (you can use PM's to ask for a post to be debunked).