Passover Lunar Eclipse

Stay up until midnight in California tonight, if it’s not cloudy where you are.  The sun, moon, Earth and Mars are all lining up tonight for a wondrous spectacle.

Opposition is when a planet that is further from the sun than us has its version of a full moon.  The Earth’s orbit brings us right in between that planet and the sun, and therefore we are closest to that planet during that alignment so it looks especially big and bright.  This is Mars’ closest approach since January 2008, coming within 57.4 million miles of Earth.  At magnitude -1.5, Mars is equal in brightness to Sirius, the brightest of all stars.  Mars will make its closest approach to Earth since January 2008, coming within 57.4 million miles of Earth.

For those of you who don’t know, a full moon happens when the Earth is aligned in between the sun and the moon, so therefore the moon rises at sunset and sets at sunrise; it’s up all night.  Mars will be doing that, rising in the east at sunset and setting in the west at sunrise.  It just so happens that the full moon is also tonight, and so it will be nine degrees below Mars, following it across the sky.  Now the bright star closest to the moon will be Spica, in the constellation of Virgo, two degrees away.

As the brightest and Alpha (α) star of the constellation Virgo (Latin for Virgin), Spica is a binary, brilliant flushed white star marking the Ear of Wheat in the Virgin’s left hand. In the land of Judaea Virgo was Bethulah, and, being always associated with the idea of abundance in harvest, was assigned by the Rabbis to the tribe of Asher, of whom Jacob had declared “his bread shall be fat.”

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This is one of the two points in the sky where the celestial equator crosses the ecliptic so it makes sense that the first full moon after the vernal equinox would appear in Virgo.  Spica is believed to be the star that provided Hipparchus with the data that enabled him to discover the precession of the equinoxes.  A temple to Menat (an early Hathor) at Thebes was oriented with reference to Spica when it had been constructed in 3200 BC, and, over time, precession resulted in a slow but noticeable change in the location of Spica relative to the temple.

So.  Starting at 10:58pm, the full moon will be in such direct opposition to the sun that it will actually enter into the earth’s shadow until it is totally eclipsed.  If you want lots of detailed information about the eclipse, visit Mr. Eclipse .com.

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Few sights in astronomy are more eerie and impressive than watching this red-black shadow creeping, minute by minute, across the bright lunar landscape, slowly engulfing one crater after another. If you’re so inclined, there’s scientific value in carefully timing these crater crossings.  Finally, from 12:06am to 1:24am, the moon will be in total eclipse, but the lunar disk won’t be completely blacked out but instead remains dimly lit by a deep orange or red glow. Why?

Our atmosphere scatters and refracts (bends) sunlight that grazes the rim of our globe, so that red glow comes from all the sunrises and sunsets around Earth’s terminator at the moment. If you were an astronaut standing on the Moon, you’d see Earth ringed with a thin, brilliant band of sunset- and sunrise-colored light. On rare occasions the eclipsed Moon does go black. Other times it appears as bright and coppery as a new penny. Sometimes it turns brown like chocolate, or as dark red as dried blood.

Two factors affect an eclipse’s color and brightness. The first is simply how deeply the Moon goes into the umbra — because the umbra’s center is much darker than its outer edge. The second is the state of Earth’s atmosphere all around the terminator. If the air is very clear, the eclipse is bright; if it’s mostly cloudy (or polluted with volcanic ash from a major eruption), the eclipse will be dark red, ashen gray, or almost black.

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The earth’s shadow during a partial eclipse

Okay; so here’s the most interesting part.  The Passover holiday always starts on the full moon, at sunset when the moon rises.  But this year Passover falls on the night of this “blood moon”.  Why is that significant?  Passover commemorates when God judged the Egyptians by sending the angel of creeping death, but blessing Israel through the harvest by freeing them with strength and plunder (lyrics from Handel’s oratorio Israel and Egypt):

He smote all the first-born of Egypt, the chief of all their strength. (Psalm 105:36)  But as for His people, He led them forth like sheep. (Psalm 78:53) He brought them out with silver and gold; there was not one feeble person among their tribes.

God told Israel that only by sacrificing a lamb and painting its blood on your front doorposts would His creeping death “pass over” your house, as recorded in Exodus 12:21-32:

Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slay the Passover lamb. You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning.

For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you.  And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever.

When you enter the land which the Lord will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite.  And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the Lord who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.’”  And the people bowed low and worshiped.

Then the sons of Israel went and did so; just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.

Now it came about at midnight that the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of cattle.  Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no home where there was not someone dead.

Then he called for Moses and Aaron at night and said, “Rise up, get out from among my people, both you and the sons of Israel; and go, worship the Lord, as you have said.  Take both your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and go, and bless me also.”

So let’s recap.  Mars is the Roman “god” of war.  Lunar eclipses are called blood moons.  Passover is the remembrance of bloodshed and freedom from Egyptian slavery.  The angel of creeping death struck Egypt at midnight, killing the first-born son in every house that didn’t believe the LORD and by faith observe the Passover.  In the Pacific time zone tonight the black shadow of the earth will creep across the face of the full moon until it turns to blood at midnight.  Although to Israel Virgo/Bethulah meant abundance via a “harvest”, in earlier Arabic astrology the star Spica was, like all of Virgo, a sign of unfruitfulness and a portent of injustice to innocence.  More lyrics from Handel:

The LORD is a man of war; LORD is his name.  Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy.  And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee: thou sentest forth thy wrath, which consumed them as stubble. (Exodus 15:3,6,7)

Why do I find myself humming the chorus to Metallica’s song Creeping Death?  According to Wikipedia, the song was written from the perspective of the angel of death, describing the Plague of the Death of the Firstborn.

Two scriptures which I point to about this event.  First is Genesis 1:14-15:

And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:  And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.

God made Virgo and Spica and Mars and the Moon and the Sun for us as signs and seasons. Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.  He’s trying to communicate with us.

Second is Luke 21:25-28 when Jesus talks about the signs of His return:

And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;  Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.

And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.

And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand.  So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.

Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.  Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.

Eclipse times for the United States tomorrow morning:

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This is the first of four blood moons that align with major Jewish holidays.  All four will be visible from the USA.  Enjoy.

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UPDATE:

The eclipse was totally awesome!  I had my small Orion SkyQuest XT4.5 Classic Dobsonian Telescope out, observing out the moon, Mars, Spica, and Jupiter.

Looks like I need to collimate (align) my main mirror; it’s clearly not centered.   This picture is of the moonlight shining directly into the telescope tube without the focusing eyepiece.

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Right near the moon was one of the smaller stars in Virgo, totally washed out by the glare of the moon but who shone brightly during the eclipse (unaffected by the earth’s shadow).  Of course that observation seems obvious, but I had to think through the difference between the direct light of a star and the indirect light from a planet/satellite.  You can see that star at the very top of this next picture:

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Spica was close too, and didn’t become obvious until the eclipse removed the glare.  Mars never looked better.  I could see clearly a round disk in the telescope…if the moon weren’t the star of the show, I might have stuck around to try detecting variations in the color of Mars’ surface.  In this shot you can see Spica just to the right of the moon, and Mars to the upper right corner.

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Finally, my poor attempt to photograph Mars through the telescope:

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Total eclipse of the Moon, April 14-15, 2014*Eclipse eventUT EDTCDTMDTPDTPenumbra first visible?5:201:20 a.m.12:20 a.m11:20 p.m.10:20 p.m.Partial eclipse begins5:581:58 a.m.12:58 a.m.11:58 p.m.10:58 p.m.Total eclipse begins7:073:07 a.m.2:07 a.m.1:07 a.m.12:07 a.m.Mid-eclipse7:463:46 a.m.2:46 a.m1:46 a.m.12:46 a.m.Total eclipse ends8:254:25 a.m.3:25 a.m.2:25 a.m.1:25 a.m.Partial eclipse ends9:335:33 a.m.4:33 a.m.3:33 a.m.2:33 a.m.Penumbra last visible?10:10—5:10 a.m.4:10 a.m.3:10 a.m. – See more at: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/observing-news/aprils-total-eclipse-of-the-moon/#sthash.AsgpjLFF.dpuf

A total lunar eclipse happens very late tonight for the Americas! See April’s Total Eclipse of the Moon with map and timetable (also in the April Sky & Telescope, page 60).

Total lunar eclipse

Meanwhile Mars shines near the Moon all night, and Mars is at its closest to Earth tonight. And in addition, Spica shines much closer to the Moon than Mars does (for the Americas).

– See more at: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/this-weeks-sky-atnbspanbspglance-2/#sthash.2wGKmSgF.dpuf

A total lunar eclipse happens very late tonight for the Americas! See April’s Total Eclipse of the Moon with map and timetable (also in the April Sky & Telescope, page 60).

Total lunar eclipse

Meanwhile Mars shines near the Moon all night, and Mars is at its closest to Earth tonight. And in addition, Spica shines much closer to the Moon than Mars does (for the Americas).

– See more at: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/this-weeks-sky-atnbspanbspglance-2/#sthash.2wGKmSgF.dpuf

Mars shines near the Moon all night, and Mars is at its closest to Earth tonight. And in addition, Spica shines much closer to the Moon than Mars does – See more at: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/this-weeks-sky-atnbspanbspglance-2/#sthash.2wGKmSgF.dp
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About zyll9

Here are some topics that have recently interested me: ♥ The Enigma Machine ♦ Morse Code ♣ Fluorescent minerals ♠ The Long scale and the word milliard ♥ The 21 Spanish Missions of California and El Camino Real ♦ 3D Printing and browsing items on Thingiverse.com ♣ Le Mans and the 1955 winner, a Jaguar D-Type ♠ My huge King James Version Bible, which was printed at least before 1893 ♥ Hyperinflation paper money ♦ Silver certificates vs. United States Notes vs. Federal Reserve Notes ♣ Old Stereoscopic photographs and anaglyphs ♠ Pyramids, such as those at Giza in Egypt and at Teotihuacan in Mexico ♥ The special characters produced using ALT-Codes (ie., Alt 14 makes this: ♫) ♦ Old-style numerals written above and below the line by using Text Figures ♣ The long-s which looks like an "f" and went extinct around 1810. like "Congreß" ♠ How to play chess better, because I really suck at it ♥ Animated gifs of funny movie clips ♦ Archaeoastronomy ♣ Hiking the John Muir Trail ♠ Sighting comets ♥ My DIY Musicbox
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