Tonight and tomorrow morning, if the weather holds, people around the world will be able to see a “blood moon” lunar eclipse. The phenomenon has revived interest in ancient myths surrounding how the moon affects our mood. Birmingham astrophysicist Professor Ilya Mandel was on hand to bring the focus back to the fascinating science.
A "blood moon” is the name given to the phenomenon when the moon is totally eclipsed by the Earth. Tonight's blood moon is expected to be the longest lunar eclipse of the century (so far).
There are people who believe that lunar activity can have a direct effect on the behaviour and wellbeing of beings on earth. This is known as the “lunar effect”. Perhaps the most famous of these myths is is effect the moon is said to have on our mood. Throughout human history, lunar activity has also been linked to mental illness, blood pressure and even fertility.
Commenting in the Independent, Ilya Mandel, Professor of Theoretical Astrophysics in the School of Physics and Astronomy, expressed scepticism over the claims and instead chose to focus on what makes a blood moon so special from an astronomical perspective:
“A blood moon is really a lunar eclipse,” he says. “An eclipse happens when three astronomical bodies line up in a straight line.
“When the Earth is between the Moon and the Sun, we get a lunar eclipse, because moonlight is actually reflected light from the Sun, and in this configuration the Earth is blocking sunlight from reaching the Moon.”
You can read more about both the science and myths surrounding the blood moon by following the link below:
Image credit: January 2018 lunar eclipse by Alfredo Garcia, Jr (public domain)