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Blood Moon: 6 Facts About Lunar Tetrad

Blood Moon: 6 Facts About Lunar Tetrad
The picture combo shows the moon before (L), during (C) and after (R) total eclipse over southern California as seen from Korea town (west of downtown) Los Angeles early on April 15, 2014. (Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 03 April 2015 07:47 PM EDT

A blood moon occurs during a lunar eclipse, when the shadow of the Earth creates an orange-red glow on the moon.

The term “blood moon” isn’t an astronomical term, but it’s the term that has been popular on the Internet as people watched two lunar eclipses in 2014 and prepare for an additional two in 2015.

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Four total lunar eclipses in a row are called a lunar tetrad. Here are six facts about this somewhat unusual event, and also about blood moons:

1. Actually, it’s hard to say whether lunar tetrads can be termed “unusual” or not. It depends on what century you live in. According to NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak, “During the 21st century, there are 8 sets of tetrads, so I would describe tetrads as a frequent occurrence in the current pattern of lunar eclipses. But this has not always been the case. During the three hundred year interval from 1600 to 1900, for instance, there were no tetrads at all."

2. The final two eclipses in 2015 will occur on April 4 and Sept. 28. The next lunar tetrad will happen in 2032-33, followed by another in 2043-44, according to NASA.

3. The moon looks red during a lunar eclipse because sunlight scattered while passing through the Earth’s atmosphere removes all colors but red — the same reason the sunset is red, said.

4. A lunar eclipse can be seen by about half the Earth at a time, said. The unusual thing about the 2014-15 lunar tetrad was that all four can be seen from North America, Espenak said. The next lunar tetrad in 2032-33 will not be visible from North America, according to a database NASA maintains of upcoming eclipses.

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5. The color of the moon during an eclipse is measured on a scale called the Danjon Scale, with 0 being a dark eclipse where the moon is hardly visible to a 4, which is a brightly visible moon. Not all lunar eclipses create a blood, or reddish, moon, despite what is bandied around online. “And yes, each total lunar eclipse is now receiving the ‘Blood Moon’ meme thanks to ye ole Internet,” Universe Today said. “Grab a painter’s wheel and compare the eclipsed moon to swatches of orange through red: what colors do you see? What you’re seeing is the combinations of all the world’s sunsets refracted into the cone of the Earth’s shadow, which is about three times the size of the moon at its average distance as seen from Earth.”

6. On the Oct. 8, 2014, eclipse, an unusual event, called a selenelion, occurred, Universe Today said. The term refers to “witnessing the end of lunar totality after sunrise,” meaning you’ll see both the sun and moon together during an eclipse. That was possible across the northeastern United States into the Canadian Maritimes, the website said. “The more elevation you can get the better! This works because the Moon lingers a bit in the large shadow of the Earth, plus atmospheric refraction gives the low altitude Sun and Moon a slight boost,” the site said.

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A blood moon occurs during a lunar eclipse, when the shadow of the Earth creates an orange-red glow on the moon.
blood moon, lunar tetrad, facts
Friday, 03 April 2015 07:47 PM
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