‘Just Planetary Dynamics’

September 27, 2015

bloodmoon1Sunshine burning-off the fog this Sunday morning on California’s north coast — clear sunrise earlier, but then a chilled-moist marine layer came cat-feeting ashore with thick vapor soup; now eastern skies are bright with sun, and today most-likely a repeat of yesterday as the fog bank melts away.
Although the skies could get near-clear, the off-shore breeze has been way-chilling the last few days, seemingly escorting autumn and winter onto our living landscape.

Maybe starting this evening, the sky-scape, too.
If the skies are clear as they have been lately, we’ll be able to witness a weird celestial event.

(Illustration found here).

And if last night’s bulbous, picture-perfect moon was any indication, this evening’s show will indeed be a sight — a lunar eclipse will be coupled with a “supermoon,” a normal-full moon appearing closer because it’s at the closest point of its orbit with earth, with the whole episode referenced as a “blood moon.”
Whatever the title, not such a situation since 1982, and won’t again until 2033

The Cincinnati Observatory is calling it “The astronomical event of the year.”
On the local sky-scape, Redheaded Blackbelt has the lowdown for our area.

According to NASA, however, the moonscape set-up is just natural:

“Because the orbit of the moon is not a perfect circle, the moon is sometimes closer to the Earth than at other times during its orbit,” said Noah Petro, deputy project scientist for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
“When the moon is farthest away it’s known as apogee, and when it’s closest it’s known as perigee. On Sept. 27, we’re going to have a perigee full moon—the closest full moon of the year.”
At perigee, the moon is about 31,000 miles closer to Earth than at apogee.
That distance equates to more than once around the circumference of Earth.
Its looming proximity makes the moon appear 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter in the sky than an apogee full moon, which sparked the term “supermoon.”
“There’s no physical difference in the moon,” Petro said.
“It just appears slightly bigger in the sky. It’s not dramatic, but it does look larger.”

As for the supermoon and a lunar eclipse occurring simultaneously, Petro said, “It’s just planetary dynamics. The orbit of the moon around Earth is inclined to the axis of Earth and the orbital plane of all these things just falls into place every once in a while. When the rhythms line up, you might get three to four eclipses in a row or a supermoon and an eclipse happening.”

“That’s rare because it’s something an entire generation may not have seen,” said Petro.

Yet there’s more to the story…
From Newsweek:

As NASA explains in an animated preview video published last month, a “supermoon” is a result of the moon’s elliptical orbit.
The moon reaches the point farthest from the Earth at its apogee, and the closest point to the Earth at its perigee.
A perigee full moon—when it is 31,000 miles closer to Earth than at its apogee — appears 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than an apogee full moon.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon is directly opposite the sun, with the Earth in the middle.
The Earth’s shadow blocks light from the sun that normally reflects directly off the moon.
Instead, light refracts around the edges of the Earth to give the moon the reddish-orange glow of sunset.
That’s why this event is sometimes referred to as a “blood moon.”
Before people understood why an eclipse actually occurred, it constituted a rather terrifying phenomenon.
“It looked like one heck of an omen in the sky,” says Alan MacRobert, a senior editor at Sky & Telescope.
“I mean the moon turning to blood—how could anybody think this means good news?”
Even today, some claim vociferously that a blood moon portends doom, like John Hagee, founder and senior pastor of a San Antonio megachurch and author of the 2013 book Four Blood Moons.
“Every heavenly body is controlled by the unseen hand of God, which signals coming events to humanity. There are no solar or lunar accidents,” reads the description of a video promoting the book.
Rumors in the vein of Hagee’s warnings have reportedly suggested that an asteroid due to hit the Earth sometime between September 15 and 28, and coinciding with the supermoon lunar eclipse, will end life on the planet.
MacRobert says this isn’t the first (and likely not the last) time such erroneous claims have been made or spread quickly, especially on the Internet in recent years.
“I don’t think there’s been a month or a year that’s gone by in the last decades,” he says, “that some loony tune hasn’t created a stir by saying he’s discovered a secret asteroid that’s going to hit the Earth next month and nobody knows about it but him.
“And it’s amazing how gullible people are.”

MacRobert says the event is visible to the naked eye for anyone with an unobstructed view of the eastern sky and clear weather (clouds could get in the way).
The eclipse takes place in phases, with the total lunar eclipse beginning at 10:11 p.m. ET and ending at 11:23 p.m. Sky & Telescope has created a timetable that can be used to determine when each stage begins in different time zones.
“Things like this remind you that there’s a big universe out there,” MacRobert says.
“If you turn your head up from our busy little lives here on this planet, there are much greater, grander, more enormous happenings out there.”

Well said — and some more added, interesting stuff via Atlas Obscura last Thursday:

This mysterious moon brings together a mix of astronomical anomalies, the Jewish calendar, and possibly even Doomsday.
Unsurprisingly, crowds of concerned folks are preparing for imminent calamity.
The moon will be at its closest orbital point to Earth (perigee), as well as in its brightest phase, so it will appear bigger and more brilliant than usual — 30 percent brighter and 14 percent larger than when it’s at its farthest point (apogee), a difference of 31,000 miles.
Sunlight sifting through the outer bounds of Earth’s atmosphere en route to the moon will cast that signature gory glow, making it both a blood moon and a super moon.
This will be the fourth lunar eclipse in only two years, and, like the previous three, it will be falling on a Jewish holy day (in many parts of the world, but not the U.S., which is in a different timezone).
This curious circumstance is known as a tetrad, and has occurred seven times since the birth of Jesus.

And a moon-full of people…

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