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Forum:Free Space
Topic:'Super Blue Blood Moon' on Jan. 31, 2018
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GlintNot quite. It seems that the often presented definition of a "blue moon" being the second full moon in a month is patently wrong and based on an error in a long ago publication. The error and its correction were both published in Sky & Telescope magazine. An explanation of the error was published nearly two decades ago in the New York Times, yet the error continues to be propagated in publications and online over and over again, year after year, much like the perpetually recurring "Mars will appear as big and bright as a full moon" hoax.

A blue moon is the fourth full moon in a season. In the current winter season January and March each have two full moons (none in February), making January and March blue moon months under the erroneous blue moon definition. The second full moon in March is on the 31st, occurring after the Equinox. Thus there are no blue moons during the current season because there are only three full moons this winter.

moorougeThe above post is correct in giving the definition of a "seasonal blue moon" but is incorrect in claiming that this is the only true definition as this article shows.

It is perfectly acceptable to use either the seasonal or the monthly definition as both are equally valid when describing a blue moon.

GlintSeems unscientific as well as absurd to have two definitions for the same phrase. Otherwise you're causing ambiguity and confusion.

Then there's this "blood moon" business. What in heavens name is a "blood moon?" If one means total lunar eclipse then just say so and be clear about it.

In February last year, Bruce McClure, a writer for wrote that the term blood moon:

...appears to have been popularized by two Christian pastors, Mark Blitz and John Hagee. They used the term to apply to the full moons of the 2014-2015 lunar tetrad – four successive total lunar eclipses, each separated by six lunar months, with no partial lunar eclipses in between.
So, the real definition of the relatively recently coined term blood moon is four consecutive total lunar eclipses. Not entirely clear if it means all four eclipses or only the last one, or maybe the first is the blood moon. But that doesn’t matter, because the previous lunar eclipse in August was partial, not total.

How about going forward: Is the January 2018 eclipse the first of four consecutive total lunar eclipses? No. There will be two in 2018 and one in 2019, but the fourth is a partial eclipse, not a total. Thus, the January 2018 total lunar eclipse is not a blood moon.

WehaveliftoffEven NASA got it wrong in their video. Thanks for the clarification.

Only really worth viewing the further west you live in the States.
Robert Pearlman
Originally posted by Glint:
So, the real definition...
For what it's worth, the Oxford Living Dictionaries (by the Oxford University Press, same publisher as the OED) defines "blood moon" as:
The phenomenon whereby the moon in total eclipse appears reddish in colour as it is illuminated by sunlight filtered and refracted by the earth's atmosphere.
Of course, all of these titles are just colloquialisms designed to pique the public's interest and attention, which contributes to why they are used interchangeably.
denali414I had always thought the "blood moon" referred just to the color the moon turned (reddish tinge) in certain lunar eclipses with no numerical or continuation pattern.
GlintHow can they already know what color the eclipsed moon will get? Not all total lunar eclipses are red. I've seen many that are bright orange and others (far fewer) that are deep brown or ashen gray.

Often it depends on the amount of recent volcanic activity and in which hemisphere. The more suspended ash and aerosols the more opaque will be earth's atmosphere and darker the moon will be. Less volcanism means a clearer atmosphere and more refracted (red) light falling on the moon.

Maybe blood moon is just a figure of speech with no implication as to color. Just like the blue moon.

Robert PearlmanIt's a colloquialism, not a scientific descriptor.

And yes, it is all nonsense; in a better world the public would need no more reason to get interested in the moon than it being there.

Robert PearlmanNASA photo (credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
The International Space Station, with a crew of six onboard, is seen in silhouette as it transits the moon at roughly five miles per second Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, Alexandria, Virginia. Onboard are; NASA astronauts Joe Acaba, Mark Vande Hei, and Scott Tingle: Russian Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov, and Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai.

GlintWoke up without an alarm at about 6:45 a.m. local (EST) this morning. Raised a blind and saw the full moon low on the wnw horizon and settled into a chair having a direct view of the moon through the window across the room. (Here the moon set at 7:17 a.m. long before the predicted 7:51 a.m. onset of totality.)

The upper left edge of the moon had an obvious darkening from the penumbral shadow and the umbra was just starting to cross the moon's face as the partial eclipse (predicted to start at 6:48 a.m.) was getting under way. But soon the moon was fading, it's edge becoming less distinct.

I could not tell whether the moon was sinking into the mist or distant clouds were rising over the horizon to engulf it. However, the moon became increasingly hard to distinguish and soon was nothing more than a bright smear. Within about 12 minutes of total observing time the moon vanished in the haze.

Hope others had better luck -- especially west of here.

olyI was able to watch the full moon rise between the gum trees from my backyard and we had a BBQ meal and enjoyed the show. I was able to set up a camera and long lens and capture the whole event from beginning to end without a single cloud in the sky.

At totality I was able to get photos of a blood red moon with stars in the sky around it. Here the eclipse began about an hour after moon rise and was complete before midnight.

To complete the event I took the camera down to the beach just before moon set and got some shots as the moon set over the horizon as the sun was rising behind me. The whole event was spectacular.

cspgStrangely enough I never thought that the Moon we see differs depending on where on Earth you are.

On the post above with the ISS, Tycho crater is to the South or near the South pole. When I looked at the Moon Wednesday (Jan. 31) Tycho was way more to the right.

And when you look at the picture from Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) for Feb. 1, Tycho is way to the left! Earth location are: Virginia, USA for the post above; Geneva, Switzerland for me and Arizona, USA for the APOD picture.

denali414It Also depends on if the picture is from a straight camera view or if its a picture seen through a telescope lens attached to a camera. If through a telescope the image will look very different. From Space Daily:
Refractor and Cassegrain telescopes will produce an image that is upside down when used without a diagonal. When a diagonal is used the image will be corrected right side up, but backwards from left to right. It will look like trying to read a sign in a mirror. There are special diagonals called Erect Image Prism diagonals that can correct the backwards image for land use.

Newtonian Reflectors will produce an image that is upside down and are not recommended for land use. There are no ways to correct this with a Newtonian Reflector.

cspgThanks for the explanation. I've seen such effect in documentaries/TV shows and I was always left somewhat puzzled by that. As a kid I had a cheap refracting telescope. Okay for astronomy but when looking at the Genena airport, planes were landing and taking off up side down!!!
WehaveliftoffI still remember looking through my refractor telescope as a kid, I swear I saw different colors on the moon when it was just becoming a complete lunar eclipse, exciting then as now.

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