Various claims about the end of the world and “Judgement Day” can be found threaded into the long history of humanity and has become a common re-occurrence that, most likely, will always be something that raises its needless anxiety-inducing head. For my short 27 years on this grand old planet I have heard the many different claims that “the end is nigh” which are usually followed by “Do you fancy buying this book about how I know and how you can survive?” I can even remember the claims of Y2K and as a child being petrified of not knowing what would happen when the clock struck midnight on 31st December 1999! When I look back to that irrational fear I felt, it makes me grateful for that silly claim, as the lesson I learned as I celebrated New Year’s Day 2000 with my family was invaluable, always check the facts!
Now apparently the “end is nigh” again. We have already addressed the fact an asteroid is NOT hitting the Earth in September 2015, but surprise, surprise there are more claims that the Rapture will be upon us in September and it is thanks to a lack of understanding about Lunar eclipses! So let’s take a look at what a lunar eclipse is.
Lunar eclipses happen at least twice a year and they happen when the Moon travels into the shadow of the Earth. This is when the Sun, Earth and Moon are aligned but not necessarily perfectly. Unlike a solar eclipse a lunar eclipse can last for a few hours and it is visible anywhere it is night. Lunar eclipses also only happen when there is a full Moon which has inspired many myths and superstitions throughout history by itself.
But not every lunar eclipse is a total one. There are three types:
Penumbral Lunar Eclipse – The imperfect alignment of the Sun, Earth and Moon. This is when the Moon moves into the outer part of the Earth’s shadow, called the penumbra, and never touches the actual umbra, the inner shadow, of the Earth. This type of eclipse is often not noticed and many people would be deceived in thinking they are looking at a normal full Moon as direct light from the Sun is still reaching it.
Partial Lunar Eclipse – When the Moon doesn’t take a full dip into the Earth’s shadow! Again this occurs when the Sun, Earth and Moon are not precisely aligned, but are closer to it than the alignment of a penumbral lunar event. This is when only a part of the Moon finds itself in the darkest part of Earth’s shadow so part is in the umbra and part is in the penumbra. The part of the Moon that is in the umbra will therefore have a dark shadow cast over it.
Total Lunar Eclipse – When the Moon is in the full shadow of the Earth. This is when the Moon finds itself behind the Earth. It is when the Sun, Earth and Moon are perfectly or even nearly perfectly aligned and the Moon is swallowed up by the umbra of the Earth. This will cause the moon to turn a beautiful deep red colour for as long it is in the umbra which in recent years has earned the total lunar eclipse the nickname of the “Blood Moon.”
Some you may wonder why this happens. When in the full umbra of the Earth you would think the Moon would be black or even invisible, and this would be the case if the Earth had no atmosphere, but thankfully for us it does and here is the real beauty of the lunar event. When sunlight reaches the Earth the atmosphere filters out the various colours in the spectrum of light, which is the same way in which the sky appears blue. The red colour of the light spectrum is first bent towards the Earth as it enters the atmosphere and then bent again as it is exiting the atmosphere. This may sound quite confusing but it is a process called Rayleigh scattering of sunlight in the Earth’s atmosphere.
To paint a picture for you, this would mean if you were standing on the Moon during a lunar eclipse you would see a bright reddish ring around the Earth and on the Earth we will see this reddish colour on the Moon. What you are looking at is the projected colour of the various sunrises and sunsets happening on the Earth during the duration of the eclipse. Quite a beautiful and breath-taking sight and the next one will grace the night sky in most of North America, South America, Europe, west Asia and parts of Africa on September 28th 2015.
But did I mention some people aren’t exactly excited about it happening? In fact many are actually quite scared about it happening due to the fact that this total lunar eclipse will be the final in a tetrad of total lunar eclipses. If you look though the recordings of all the various lunar eclipses since records began there is no real distinct pattern, jumping from partial, penumbral and total lunar eclipses. But sometimes there will occur four successive total lunar eclipses within two years and this is referred to as a tetrad. In the 21st century there is to be a total of eight tetrads so they could be regarded as quite a common celestial occurrence. But some are campaigning to stain the tetrads innocent occurrence with more prophecies of doom.
In particular the preacher John Hagee has really tried to hammer home his theory that this current tetrad, that is due to end in September 2015, has “purposefully” coincided with various Jewish holidays and is a sign of the “end times”. He believes that this is in accordance with various religious texts from the book of Joel to the book of Revelations that refers to the ‘Sun turning to darkness” and the “Moon to blood” in the end of days.
Hagee has used the occurrence of the tetrad to highlight how “God controls the Earth, Sun and Moon” to send the world a message of his coming. But he tries to force the idea that humanity has ignored these signs for centuries and that it is no coincidence that the four total lunar eclipses are happening on Jewish holidays. It’s on this fact he is at least right. The occurrence of lunar events happening on Jewish holidays is not a coincidence but not by some divine intervention, rather Judaism placed their holidays on a lunar calendar and not a solar calendar. So really it can’t be seen as a divine act, rather a human calculation!
Many of Hagee’s facts are also inaccurate with various claims about historical Jewish events occurring during a total lunar eclipses or Blood Moons. He claims that a blood Moon marks events that begin with tragedy but end in triumph and he even gives examples, and it is with his own examples that he knocks his own credibility. In his own words, “In 1967, Israel won the Six-Day War and recaptured Jerusalem.” Sounds good if you just assume that that means a blood moon occurred during this time but as a young me would say, check the facts. During the Six-Day War ( 5-10 June 1967) there was no lunar eclipse, not even a single one! The war was in fact fought roughly midway between lunar eclipses in April and October 1967! How could anyone preach something that they haven’t even checked the facts on? Would it be to sell books? Did I mention that Pastor Hagee wrote a bestselling book called Four Blood Moons: Something Is About To Change that even reached Number4 in the New York Times’ best sellers list. To some it may seem to be a man trying to reveal the truth and to others it may seem like someone trying to profit from the fears of those riddled with anxiety about how the world will end. If you really want to go through his many inaccurate claims this article from Bad Science Debunked gives a thoroughly clear (and dare I say it entertaining) breakdown!
I truly hope this article has helped ease the minds of even one person who reads it as no one should waste even a minute of their lives worrying about something that is not happening, life is too short to be spent growing grey hairs! I for one will be watching the Total Lunar Eclipse on the 28th September, but not with fear in my mind, but rather with joy at seeing such a stunning celestial wonder!
(Article by Kerry Scullion, Education Support Officer)