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What Is a Blood Moon? | Total Lunar Eclipse in May 2022 | The Old Farmer's Almanac

What a Blood Moon Is—and Isn't

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Total lunar eclipse

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NASA
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Separating Lunar Fact from Fiction

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What exactly IS a Blood Moon? There are boatloads of celestial hype about this phenomenon (happening this Sunday) as well as reference to a strange prophesy. I’ll help you separate fact from fiction.

What Is a Blood Moon?

In simple terms, a Blood Moon is another name for a total lunar eclipse—like the one taking place this Sunday evening, May 15, 2022.

Learn more about the May full Moon and total lunar eclipse!

During a lunar eclipse, the Earth passes between the Sun and the Moon, blocking the Sun’s rays. The Moon will be 100% obscured during this eclipse. However, the Moon isn’t completely dark. What we see from Earth is the Moon slowly darkening and changing color over a few hours from bright white to an orange-red.

What is it Called a Blood Moon?

The Moon turns a reddish hue when it’s completely submerged in the Earth’s shadow. Call us picky, but we wouldn’t ever describe the color as “bloody.” The fully-eclipsed Moon actually becomes orange or coppery like a penny. 

While most of the sunlight is indeed blocked, some rays bent around the edge of Earth and reach the Moon’s surface. Earth’s atmosphere scatters the blue/green colors (short wavelengths), but the orange/red colors (long wavelengths) reach our eyes. It’s similar to a sunset. 

Although not as awe-inspiring as a total solar eclipse, a full eclipse of the Moon is still an amazing astronomical sight. 

lunar_eclipse_sideview_full_width.jpgImage: NASA

When to See the Next Blood Moon

The next Blood Moon starts on the night of Sunday, May 15, 2022. The Moon enters the dark part of Earth’s shadow starting at 10:27 P.M. EDT (7:27 P.M. PDT) on May 15, before reaching totality beginning at 11:28 P.M. EDT (8:28 P.M PDT). This eclipse then reaches its peak (called the “maximum”) at 12:11 A.M. EDT on May 16 (9:11 P.M. PDT on May 15). This is the best time to view the total lunar eclipse! 

The Blood Moon Prophesy

We’ve heard all kind of strange theories about a “Blood Moon.” Back in 2014–2015, some religious preachers made prophecies about a rare series of four consecutive total lunar eclipses (Blood Moons), claiming it was a sign of the beginning of the end times. They quoted the Book of Joel which said that “the sun will turn into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” 

The Bible also references a Blood Moon in Acts 2:20 and Revelation 6:12. In the latter, the verse says, “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood.

Well, the media went a little crazy hyping these end-of-the-world prophesies. Clearly, the world did not end!

The “Blood Moon” is not a technical term used in astronomy. It’s really more of a popular phrase, perhaps because it sounds so dramatic. Once again, the term simply refers to a total lunar eclipse. Yep, that’s it.  So, don’t let the term “Blood Moon” throw you.

More About Eclipses

Lunar eclipses shouldn’t be confused with solar eclipses. Both involve the Moon, but are different events.

A total solar eclipse is the greatest celestial event the human eye can behold. It’s when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, blocking out the Sun for a short period of time. See the next total solar eclipse date.

By the way, an animated aurora borealis might hold second place. An exploding meteor, called a bolide, or a brilliant colorful one called a fireball might hold third place. And a brilliant comet like Hale-Bopp that came around 20 years ago might be the fourth greatest spectacle.

A lunar eclipse is interesting, but it doesn’t quite have that make-you-gasp, pedal-to-the-metal glory. Moreover, the thrill is the solar totality. That’s when flames (“prominences”) shoot off the Sun’s edge, and its corona leaps far across the sky, and stars come out, and many people weep. A partial solar eclipse, which requires eye protection, offers none of those things. That’s why “total” is the critical eclipse adjective.

But lunar eclipses are different. When the Moon is 99% eclipsed it’s quite fascinating. Nothing extra happens when the Moon plunges into the final one percent of Earth’s shadow. In fact, some might argue that 99% is more visually spectacular because there’s then one final spot of white on the Moon’s edge, which makes its overall coppery color more dramatic.

Bottom line: Totality is far less critical when it comes to lunar eclipses. And you may enjoy a lunar eclipse from anywhere on the planet where it’s nighttime! 

→ See all of the upcoming solar and lunar eclipse dates