Anything encouraging people to gaze at the night skies is a wonderful thing. But sometimes, people get a bit overzealous. I have two prime examples that show up in the news and although they generate great enthusiasm, they are really “too much.” Let’s see if we can diminish the mysticism.

What’s the big deal with a “blood moon?” We can have as many as two total lunar eclipses each year, and most of them will be dark red. Is there a common reason for this? Yes. When the moon moves into the shadow of the Earth, direct sunlight can’t reach the moon. Some of the light from the sun enters the Earth’s atmosphere and is refracted around the Earth, and some of that light reaches the moon. This works better for the redder end of the spectrum than the blue, so it is reddish light that makes it to the moon. The moon looks red.

Are “supermoons” super? Yes, but … supermoons are when the moon appears the largest during a full moon. The moon orbits Earth in an ellipse, not a circle. This means that sometimes the moon is closer to the Earth and sometimes further away. When it is at the closest part of its orbit, then it is the largest. Sometimes this happens when the moon is full, a supermoon.

Make reservations to visit the Insperity Observatory on Public Night, the first Friday of each month, to check out the many wonders of the night sky. humbleisd.net/observatory

Aaron Clevenson
Author: Aaron ClevensonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
I am the observatory director at the Insperity Observatory in Humble ISD. I am also an adjunct astronomy professor at Lone Star College-Montgomery where I teach solar system astronomy and stars and galaxies astronomy. I am the author of the astronomy textbook, “Astronomy for Mere Mortals.” I am a past president of the North Houston Astronomy Club, and was the chair of Astronomy Day in Southeast Texas in 2015 and 2016. He is an observing program director with The Astronomical League, coordinates their Master Observer Progression Awards, and has authored six of their observing programs.

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