starwwatch1

Pictured is a blood moon in the sky during a previous lunar eclipse.

Another Blood Moon is on the way! Catch a nap this Thursday afternoon because later that night we’ll have a lunar eclipse beginning after 2 am on Friday morning. It’s not officially a total lunar eclipse, but it’s about as close as it can be to one. Total lunar eclipses are also known in our pop culture world as Blood Moons. Despite that menacing moniker, the Blood Moon should be enjoyed and certainly not feared.

Lunar eclipses, or Blood Moons, if you insist, occur when the Earth is nearly in a straight line between the sun and the moon and the moon slips into the Earth’s shadow, as you can see in the diagram. The Earth doesn’t have to be in an exact line between the sun and the moon, because at the distance of the moon, the Earth’s umbra shadow is around 5500 miles wide. Since the moon is less than 2200 miles in diameter, getting into the Earth’s shadow isn’t a huge accomplishment. There’s plenty of the Earth’s shadow to go around.

Mike Lynch is an amateur astronomer and retired broadcast meteorologist for WCCO Radio in Minneapolis/St. Paul. He is the author of “Stars: a Month by Month Tour of the Constellations,” published by Adventure Publications and available at bookstores and adventurepublications.net. Mike is available for private star parties. You can contact him at mikewlynch@comcast.net.

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