Following the different faces of the Earth’s moon

This year’s September moon was a pretty big deal because it entered a rare occurrence in the planetary cycle…

This year’s September moon was a pretty big deal because it entered a rare occurrence in the planetary cycle when all the works happened at once: a super blood moon full lunar eclipse – the last one being 30 years ago and the next showing up in 2033.

This event has been very scientifically and astrologically interesting for sure, but there are plenty more faces to the moon than that orbiting around it, such as all the folklore, prophecies, superstitions and its countless affects on so many things.

But let’s begin by breaking this mouthful-of-a-moon event down a bit before we get to the good stuff.

A lunar calendar is based on cycles of the moon’s yearly and monthly phases, which are kept track of by the most common system called the Gregorian calendar (aka the Western and/or Christian calendar, created in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII).

This is a solar calendar based on the revolutions of the earth around the sun, which is slightly more than 12 lunar months long and about 354.37 days.

Leap years (aka a tropical year) are needed to keep this calendar in alignment with all these every-so-slightly varying revolutions.

A lunar month is about every 29.53 days, consisting of an ever-changing combination of sunlight and shadows known as the new moon, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full moon, waning gibbous, third quarter, waning crescent and new moon again.

The oldest known lunar calendar was found in Scotland, dating back to around 8000 BC.

A super full/new moon or supermoon is when a Full or New moon is nearest to Earth and they show up approximately every 14 full-moon cycles, or roughly once a year.

This happens close to the autumnal equinox and is traditionally known as the harvest or full corn moon. Following that one is the hunter’s moon in October.

The seemingly bigger-than-usual size of the moon (hence “supermoon”) seen near the horizon, is a trick that your eyes are playing called the moon illusion, and it appears orange in colour because it rises just after sunset.

In the days before tractor lights, the lamp of the harvest moon which illuminated the fields throughout the night helped farmers to gather their crops.

Full moons can also be very romantic, so there’s no doubt there was plenty of rolling around in the haystacks those nights too!

Lunar eclipses can be partial or total and occur when the earth’s shadow blocks the sun’s light, which otherwise reflects off the moon.

Every year there are at least two partial lunar eclipses and as many as five, but total lunar eclipses – when the sun, moon and earth are in perfect alignment – are significantly less common.

Occasionally one will coincide with a supermoon, like the one we saw in September.   (A solar eclipse occurs only at the phase of the new moon, when it passes directly between the sun and earth and its shadow falls upon earth’s surface.)

Full lunar eclipses have a rusty-brown or ‘blood’ colour, which is caused by Earth’s atmosphere extending beyond the planet, with the sunlight passing through it, and reaching the moon.

The Blood Moon Prophecy was (for some) an apocalyptic interpretation of biblical end times, beginning with the April 2014 full lunar eclipse and ending on this last one, but luckily we’re all still here – whew!

A ‘blue moon’ is when a second full moon occurs within the lunar month, and this blue tinge may result only when there are certain atmospheric conditions going on, such as a big volcanic eruption or when there are exceptionally large fires.

So to conclude, this crash course on ‘Moon 101,’ our September harvest super moon was combined with a full blood lunar eclipse, which is why it got everyone so excited (and anxious in some circles), because they just don’t happen every day.

 

So stayed tuned for the upcoming phase two of the many other faces of the moon.