by Nur Hussein, contributing writer
Jokes aside, there are a few superstitions and legends surrounding eclipses. People from ancient times often thought of it as a sign of an impending apocalypse. A Mongolian myth tells us of a dragon named Arakho who chases the sun and moon, and when he catches either of them an eclipse occurs.
As science fiction and fantasy fans, the term “blood moon” sounds fanciful and ominous and might be good inspiration for poetry or a few good fantasy stories, but in real life an eclipse is just the earth’s shadow passing over the moon.
Tonight’s eclipse will be a total lunar eclipse, which means the moon will pass entirely into the earth’s umbra (if it only passes partially into the umbra, we have a partial eclipse). However, the moon does not completely disappear from sight; some light still gets refracted through the edges of the earth’s atmosphere, rendering the moon a dark, deep red. That’s how it gets the name “blood moon.” There isn’t anything magical about it, every total eclipse gives you one.
Today’s eclipse is the first of a series of four total eclipses that will occur this year and in 2015; the next one is scheduled for October 8th 2013, and then another on April 4th of 2015, and yet another on September 28th 2015. These series of total eclipses is called a tetrad.
Today’s eclipse will be visible throughout the entirety of North and South America. The show begins 1:58 a.m. EDT (April 15) or 10:58 p.m. PDT (April 14) and will last over three and a half hours. If the weather permits, you’ll see the moon turn a deep, blood red by 3 a.m EDT.
So if you’re in the Americas, stay up and watch the skies, and perhaps put on some Creedence Clearwater Revival as in the accompanying video to this article (which has killer space monkeys, an occurrence that is assuredly not going to happen during the eclipse).
Nur is a tinkerer of programmable things, an apprentice in an ancient order of technomages. He enjoys fantasy, sci-fi, comic books, and Lego in his spare time. His favourite authors are Asimov and Tolkien. He also loves Celtic and American folk music. You can follow him on twitter: @nurhussein