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What is a Blood Moon?

by Rebecca Brents


  moon  Celestial Navigation  

blood moon

It's a total Lunar eclipse. That's it.

Every once in a while, weathermen on television and other media types get all hyped about something they call a Blood Moon. They act like it's something really rare and mysterious. It's not. Mostly they're capitalizing on the description, because that sounds strange and worrisome. And it does, doesn't it?

A Blood Moon occurs during a total lunar eclipse, and it's called that because the phenomenon turns the night's spectacular Full Moon a dark reddish color for a few hours. Once you realize what's happening and why, the term Blood Moon does sound a lot spookier than it is. But you know the media. Anything for excitement.


lunar eclipse

Only at the Full Moon

A lunar eclipse can only occur during a Full Moon -- and Full Moons happen every month. In fact, there are sometimes 13 Full Moons in a year, not just twelve. 2020 is such a time. There will be two Full Moons in October. Best of all, one falls on Halloween. How's that for a gift from the Cosmos?

Anyway, as I said, Full Moons happen every month. You undoubtedly know this. But Lunar Eclipses do not. You know this, too, but you may not know why. A total Lunar Eclipse occurs when the Moon passes directly through the Earth's full shadow -- known as the umbra. But the Moon has an irregular orbit. So does the Earth for that matter. And then there's this thing called "the plane of the ecliptic."

Don't panic. You can Google more about it if you like -- and someday I may write my own reference piece on it, just for convenience. But there's a fairly easy explanation if you just use your imagination a moment.


lunar eclipse

Imagine a phonograph record

Imagine one of those old-time phonograph records. You remember those. OK. Now, imagine the Sun just above the hole in the center. Now imagine the Earth at the edge of the record -- spinning around the Sun as it orbits. Got it? (Ok, now slow it down so you can imagine the next part.) This imaginary record in the plane of the ecliptic. The flat space of alignment between the Earth and the Sun.

Now imagine another such record -- smaller this time -- with the Earth at the center and the Moon at the edge, orbiting the Earth ... the way the Moon does in real life. Now you have the Earth orbiting the Sun on one "record" and the Moon orbiting the Earth on another ... at the same time. Now ... tilt each of the records so they no longer lie perfectly flat ... so each is kind of warped or slanted, not in perfect alignment.

Now aim a light beam from the Sun out toward the Earth so that it shines on both the Earth and the Moon ... but there's also a whole lot of light that doesn't hit anything.


lunar eclipse

Lots of margin for error

Now because these records are imaginary -- composed of empty space instead of anything solid, there will be times when the "path" of the Moon, Earth, and Sun are perfect alignment, one right behind the other. The Earth's shadow completely blocks the Sun's light from reaching the Moon. That's a total Lunar eclipse. But notice that it takes special conditions.

Most of the time, the Moon will be either too high or too low for the Earth's shadow to have any effect. That's what a normal Full Moon is like. And sometimes the Moon will be high or low enough to pass through only part of the Earth's shadow. That's a partial Lunar Eclipse.


partial eclipse


And there's also something called the "penumbra" -- which is a shady halo around the Earth, caused by the deflection of sunlight by the Earth's atmosphere. The Moon also sometimes passes just through that ... which is technically a Lunar Eclipse (and counts as such in Astrology) ... but the visual effects aren't spectacular at all.

This is called a "penumbral eclipse" when the Moon just appears a little darker ... a little grayish ... which goes along with the concept of "shady."


blood moon

Blood Moon

But the visually impressive, dark red of a total Lunar Eclipse, is what people call the Blood Moon. This red color is caused by the fact that not all the sunlight gets blocked. But what gets through gets refracted -- the way sunlight creates the familiar rainbow colors when it passes through a prism. In other words, the light gets bent and split into the different colors.

What gets through most easily in these conditions are the red light waves (which is also why sunrises and sunsets are sometimes red. Red light waves are much longer than the bluish / violet ones.) The intensity of the red color depends on the amount of dust or smoke in the atmosphere. Even when dealing with a Blood Moon / total Lunar Eclipse, some are more striking than others.


lunar eclipse

Worth seeing

Lunar eclipses happen two to five times a year, and most of those are partial or penumbral. Far less exciting than a total eclipse ... and far less visually entertaining. If a total Lunar Eclipse happens where you live, and you're able to see it -- (It depends on the time of day -- obviously, it can only happen at night.) -- it's worth a look. Just to cross it off your Bucket List, if nothing else.

A total Solar eclipse only lasts about half an hour, but a total Lunar eclipse can last nearly two hours ... and there's a lot of lead in and fade out. The whole thing start to finish can last more than five hours. So ... it's not like you have to rush. And after a while it gets kind of boring. Take a book. Or some company. But do make the effort.


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You might also enjoy

* Black Moon, Dark Moon, New Moon -- Ok, let's get this sorted out ---> Three names, three things ---> You've certainly heard the term New Moon applied to that part of the Moon's cycle when a small sliver of light appears in the western sky at dusk ... and gradually begins filling in over the next two weeks to reach the glorious display of the Full Moon before diminishing down to nothing again. Moon-watchers of all ages -- and maybe you are one -- enjoy this free celestial show every month.

* Put Dark Moon Magic to Work -- For YOU!! ---> A time to restore and strengthen your spirit ---> The Dark of the Moon is considered an especially mysterious, fruitful, and flexible time of "molding" the creative experiences that will come forth in the weeks immediately ahead.

* Full Moon / New Moon? Or New Moon / Full Moon? -- Variations on the rhythms of life ---> Different rhythms ---> It's a subtle difference, I admit, but it's there nevertheless. Life's psychological rhythm has a different sequence, depending on whether the New Moon in a particular sign forms first, followed about two weeks later by the Full Moon in the opposite sign ... or whether the Full Moon forms first, followed then by the New Moon lining up with the Sun in its sign.


Quick Notes on the Full Moon ---> It's complicated ---> Full Moons accompany a time of complex emotions and concerns. There's often a lot going on when a Full Moon arrives ... activities, interests and commitments on the outside, and ambivalence, confusion and a distinct level of concern and distress on the inside. Full Moons are not comfortable in the way that the New Moon time will be. Full Moons are times of pressure and division.

* Shadows in the Moonlight -- The Full Moon and its Testy Temper ---> The Sun Opposing The Moon ---> Who you are now vs. who you used to be ---> The aspect of the Sun opposing the Moon is the classic celestial show the rest of the world calls The Full Moon. In Astrology, The Full Moon highlights tension between two conflicting desires, ambitions, requirements, or sets of values -- each a necessary part of life, and each somehow a problem for the other.

* The New Moon -- A Celestial Milestone ---> When The Moon joins The Sun in the sky ---> In astrology, the celestial phenomenon known as the New Moon occurs at the exact moment the Sun and the Moon occupy precisely the same point in the sky-map of the Zodiac -- the same degree and minute of arc in a particular sign. This alignment is known as a conjunction.


So what IS a Black Moon? ---> Sure most people have heard of a "blue moon" ... as in "once in a blue moon." Not so many can give you even one of the several definitions for that, though. They know it means a long time -- except for those who think it means something that never comes along at all.

* What is a Blue Moon? ---> One term, three definitions ---> As if to prove something can never just be easy, there are three definitions of a Blue Moon. All describe an unusual type of Full Moon. Once upon a time -- as in "traditionally" -- a Blue Moon was the third Full Moon in a season. Weird, right? I mean, who on earth has time to figure that out. Somebody, apparently. 'Cause that definition lasted a while.

* What is the Dark of the Moon? -- When the Night's Moon Fades to Black ---> When the night brings no moonlight at all ---> The Dark of the Moon refers to that phase in the Moon's monthly cycle when the Sun and Moon are so closely aligned there is no reflected light from the Sun available to shine from the Moon's surface.

* So ... What IS the Void-of-Course Moon? -- When life slows to a stop ---> What's this all about? ---> The Moon circles through all twelve signs of the Zodiac about every 28 days, spending about 2 1/2 days in each sign. As it moves through each sign, the Moon forms angles -- called aspects -- with the Sun and planets. These lunar aspects and the changes they mark describe the ebb and flow of moods and attitudes throughout the day.


The Moon in Astrology -- Articles Index
The New Moon in Astrology -- Articles Index
The Full Moon in Astrology -- Articles Index
The Dark Moon in Astrology -- Articles Index
The Void-of-Course Moon in Astrology -- Articles Index


Celestial Navigation is
Rebecca's Astrology Blog


  moon  Celestial Navigation  

Astrology Tarot New Age Enchanted Spirit Metaphysical Resource Center
logo - river 2 Enchanted Spirit is a non-denominational spiritual center of healing, support, self-improvement, personal guidance, education and writing. We publish multi-media works of New Age thought and information to encourage serenity and growth in individual life choices, advance the universal search for life's meaning, and promote tolerance for positive ideas from all philosophies and religious traditions, believing as we do that truth is where you find it.

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Last updated January 5th, 2021

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