What is a Lunar Eclipse?

Every month, we witness the moon change and go through its many phases. From no moon to a full moon, the journey of the many phases of Earth's only natural satellite is indeed awe-worthy.[1] These astronomical phenomena keep on happening daily in the night sky as we sleep. However, once in a while, a unique and extraordinary phenomenon takes place - known as the super blood wolf moon. So what is the event of a wolf moon and what does it mean for us Earth folks. Let's take a look.

To understand a super blood wolf moon, one needs to first understand what lunar eclipses are.[2] A lunar eclipse is known to occur when the planet Earth comes in between the Sun and the full moon. Due to this peculiar alignment, the Earth's shadow gets to reflect on the moon.[3] Everyone is aware that we end up experiencing at least one to two and sometimes even three lunar eclipses during any particular year. However, a total lunar eclipse is quite rare, and even more unusual is the occurrence of a super blood wolf moon. 

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What is a Super Blood Wolf Moon?

A set of unusual circumstances has to come together for a lunar eclipse called a super blood wolf moon. A blood moon is a term that scientists use to refer to a total lunar eclipse that appears to have a reddish hue to the lunar surface.[4,5] The moon becomes red as the sunlight reflects on it. A supermoon is a term that describes the phenomenon when the moon is slightly closer to the Earth than it usually is and also appears to be brighter and bigger than usual.[6] When these two events happen together in the month of January, it is known as the wolf moon or even the great spirit moon. Thus the name super blood wolf moon.[7]

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Why does the moon become red?

Even though the term blood moon indicates a reddish moon, the moon does not change its color. As the moon takes to orbit around the Earth, the Earth also revolves around the Sun. It takes near about 27 days for the moon to finish orbiting the Earth, during which it changes its phases. Since lunar eclipses can only happen during a full moon, the Sun also completely illuminates the moon's surface. Being a full moon also means that it does not generally have any eclipse since it goes around on a different orbit than the Sun and the Earth.[8] 

However, there are certain times when these planes coincide. This happens when the Earth coincidentally comes in between the moon and the Sun. This cuts off the sunlight and causes an eclipse. When the Earth partially blocks the sunshine, the darkest part of this shadow falls on the moon's surface. This happens in a partial eclipse.[9] 

During a total eclipse, though, the moon gets fully cloaked in the Earth's shadow, but a little bit of sunlight from the sunsets and sunrises on Earth escapes and falls on the moon's surface. Due to the stretched-out nature of these light waves, they appear red. When this red light hits the surface of the moon, it also seems to be red. 

The reddish tinge to the moon also depends on cloud cover, pollution, or debris present in the atmosphere. For example, if a volcanic eruption and particles are released into the atmosphere, it may cause the moon to look a darker shade of red than usual.[10]

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How does a Super Blood Wolf Moon affect us?

Many people believe that during a total lunar eclipse, the moon's energy has a spiritual effect on us. So, when there is a wolf moon, it is likely that this energy will have even more power than usual. Supporters of this theory believe that our emotions are tied closely to the moon's energy, and during such type of a unique eclipse, our feelings become even stronger. During this time, we must take care not to act impulsively and become more aware of ourselves. It can be deemed as a time for deeper self-awareness and self-reflection. 

While a new moon is symbolism for beginning new projects, a full moon is a sign for completing open projects and bringing things to a conclusion. The last phase of the moon, when it comes into its full phase, should be taken as the time to release and let go of our negative emotions and intentions. Lunar cycles are believed to add a drastic power boost to your life and help you come onto the right path. 

These unique spectacles in the sky can serve as an opportunity to become one with yourself and embrace a broader connection with the universe. Studies carried out in 2018 at Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley has even found that when a person is exposed to certain strikingly beautiful images of nature, it increases the likelihood of offering help to someone in need or to engage in random acts of kindness.[11]

So even beyond how conventional science explains a lunar eclipse and the super blood wolf moon, these types of celestial occurring can serve as a reminder of the time when in the ancient times, people would make sense of these occurrences through myth and fear. But today, eclipses are thought to be more of a time for transformation and release. As the Earth gets thrust into the moon's shadow, we humans are also thrust into our negative emotions. And as the Earth comes out of the shadows, so should we shrug off the darkness and find a way into the light.

A lunar eclipse may also affect your sleep cycle. A study done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information discovered that at the time of a full moon, the study participants' had lower melatonin levels, which is a hormone that helps you get a good night's sleep. The study found that the participants were more agitated while sleeping than they usually would be.[12]

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Summary

You can always expect the unexpected when there's a super blood wolf moon on the horizon. However, the next such event will only take place in May 2021. With the intense energy released during this type of eclipse, it is recommended that everyone take it easy and focus on the inner self. A full moon is also a time to celebrate your accomplishments and recognize all the hard work you have put in. This unique celestial phenomenon comes along once in a while to help you learn how to embrace yourself and to choose to celebrate life.

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References

1. Kavanagh, C., Agan, L., and Sneider, C., 2005. Learning about phases of the moon and eclipses: A guide for teachers and curriculum developers. Astronomy Education Review, 4(1), pp.19-52.

2. Pallé, E., Osorio, M.R.Z., Barrena, R., Montañés-Rodríguez, P. and Martín, E.L., 2009. Earth’s transmission spectrum from lunar eclipse observations. Nature, 459(7248), pp.814-816.

3. Shorthill, R.W., Borough, H.C. and Conley, J.M., 1960. Enhanced lunar thermal radiation during a lunar eclipse. Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 72(429), pp.481-485.

4. Haddout, S., Igouzal, M., and Maslouhi, A., 2016. Analytical and numerical study of the salinity intrusion in the Sebou river estuary (Morocco)–effect of the “Super Blood Moon”(total lunar eclipse) of 2015. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 20(9), p.3923.

5. Suprapto, N., Deta, U.A., Lestari, N.A., Kholiq, A., Adam, A.S., Mubarok, H. and Jauhariyah, M.N.R., 2018, November. Pre-service physics teachers' understanding on total lunar eclipse: A response of supermoon on January 31 st 2018. In Journal of Physics: Conference Series (Vol. 1108, No. 1, p. 012097).

6. Strojnik, M., 2020. Moon with amethyst hues during full eclipse from tropical region. Applied Optics, 59(4), pp.1105-1109.

7. Wu, Y., 2019. The super blood wolf moon from space. Nature Astronomy, 3(3), pp.204-204.

8. Mendillo, M., and Baumgardner, J., 1995. Constraints on the origin of the Moon's atmosphere from observations during a lunar eclipse. Nature, 377(6548), pp.404-406.

9. Emde, C., and Mayer, B., 2007. Simulation of solar radiation during a total eclipse: a challenge for radiative transfer.

10. Gray, R., 1965. Eclipse maps. The Journal of African History, 6(3), pp.251-262.

11. Greater Good. 2020. How Nature Can Make You Kinder, Happier, And More Creative. [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 August 2020].

12. Cajochen, C., Altanay-Ekici, S., Münch, M., Frey, S., Knoblauch, V. and Wirz-Justice, A., 2013. Evidence that the lunar cycle influences human sleep. Current biology, 23(15), pp.1485-1488.

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