An awe-inspiring blood-red “supermoon” will cast its eerie light on the Earth early on Monday, perhaps creating an atmosphere of wonder and fear across the world.
For amateur astronomers it will be a rare chance to capture a spectacular celestial event that has not occurred for 30 years — a lunar eclipse with the moon near to its closest point to the Earth.
But for some — religious groups and believers in astrology — the eclipse will be dreadful in the most literal sense, a sign that the End of Days is approaching.
When the moon is at ‘perigee’, its shortest distance from the Earth, it is 226,000 miles away and appears 14% larger and 30% brighter than when it is at its furthermost point. The last time this coincided with a lunar eclipse, when the moon is covered by the Earth’s shadow, was in 1982, and the event will not be repeated until 2033.
During a lunar eclipse, the moon turns a deep rusty red, due to sunlight being scattered by the Earth’s atmosphere.
Down through the ages, so-called ‘blood moons’ have been viewed as ill-omens by superstitious people.
Monday’s eclipse is said to be even more significant, since it marks the completion of an unusual line-up of four total eclipses at six monthly intervals known as a ‘tetrad’.
Texan pastor and author John Hagee points out that this has only happened three times in the past 500 years and claims it is likely to herald a “hugely significant” world event.
Seen from our shores, the eclipse is due to begin at 1,10am with the “total” phase — when the moon is completely in shadow — lasting from 3:11am to 4.24am. It will end when the moon leaves the Earth’s shadow at 6.24am.
Whether the world is about to end or not, the phenomenon is well worth staying up for, according to leading amateur astronomer Robin Scagell. Mr Scagell, vice-president of the Society for Popular Astronomy, said: “It’s happening at a most unsuitable time, but I would say it’s definitely worth setting the alarm for to look out and see this red moon hanging over the tree tops.
“It’s quite an unusual sight, and the weather forecast is good. It’ll be even prettier seen through a pair of binoculars. You will see the colour when the moon is fully in shadow.
“It will probably be a deep red — how dark depends on the atmospheric conditions at the time.”
It was possible the edge of the moon might have a bluish tinge, he added.
He pointed out that unlike a solar eclipse, a lunar eclipse is completely safe to observe through binoculars or a small telescope.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved