People here in Alaska and in much of this part of the Northern Hemisphere will get a chance tonight to see a total lunar eclipse, weather permitting. It’ll be another appearance of the so-called “Blood Moon.”
Fairbanks National Weather Service meteorologist Ben Bartos says there’s a pretty good chance for skywatchers to see the eclipse here in the Interior.
“Tonight we’ll have partly cloudy skies,” Bartos said. “Looks like (it will be) pretty crisp out, so if you’re going to step outside to see it, dress warm. We’re looking at lows between 5 and 15 above overnight.”
But you’ll either have to stay up late or get up very early to see it. Fairbanks amateur astronomer Martin Gutoski says it’ll begin around 1:15 Wednesday morning, but the “totality” of the Earth’s shadow darkening the moon won’t begin until about 2:25 a.m. The moon should be darkest just before 3, and the event will be over around 4:30.
“It’ll be low on the horizon, like it was in April,” he said.
And like that earlier eclipse, Gutoski says the moon will again be orange or reddish, which is why it’s called the Blood Moon.
It appears that way because of the Earth’s atmosphere, says Peter Delamere. He’s an associate professor of space physics with the UAF physics department and Geophysical Institute.
“Because of the Earth’s atmosphere, the green and the ultraviolet light is filtered out,” Delamere said. “And the red is the least affected as it moves through the atmosphere. So not only is it the least affected, it also bends or it’s refracted towards the Earth’s surface. So, as the light from the sun moves through the atmosphere, and it is bent, it gets bent toward the location of the moon behind Earth.”
Gutoski says the appearance of the Blood Moon has throughout history often been interpreted as an omen of bad things to come.
Planting his tongue firmly in his cheek, Gutoski offers another theory – a decidedly less-cosmic explanation…
“The one is April was right during your tax-submittal deadline for the IRS,” he said. “And Oct. 15 is the deadline for extensions of time from the April 15th IRS reporting. So maybe it’s tied to the IRS.”
If so, Gutoski suggests the Blood Moon may mean a fate worse than the fire, floods and plagues of biblical times.
“If you postpone your income tax, like I did in April, 'til Oct. 15th, this should be a harbinger to get your taxes done,” he said. “Otherwise, they’re going to draw blood out of you.”