Late on Sunday evening, there will be a total lunar eclipse that will be visible over most of North and South America, Europe and western Africa. This particular lunar eclipse will also happen to occur during a supermoon or wolf moon — that is, when the Moon’s slightly elliptical orbit brings it closest to Earth and it appears a bit larger in the sky.
During a total lunar eclipse — when the Earth is between the Sun and the Moon — the Moon turns a reddish-orange color, which is why it is sometimes called a blood moon. This is because what little light reaches the Moon is being refracted through the Earth’s atmosphere, so the Moon is being lit by the same beautiful colors that you see in the sky around sunrise and sunset.
Think of it this way: if you stood on the surface of the Moon during a lunar eclipse, you’d see the Earth in darkness, surrounded by the reddish-orange glow of the Sun behind it. These colors are what we see being reflected back to us during a lunar eclipse on Earth.
The Moon is set to rise in the east at 5:02 p.m. on Sunday — about 40 minutes before kickoff of the AFC Championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots at Arrowhead Stadium. By the end of the game, the Moon will be about 40 degrees above the horizon, so depending on where their seats are located (and the weather), fans in the stadium will be treated to the sight of a spectacular full moon rising above the stands. You can expect the TV broadcast to get pictures of it.
The Moon will start passing into the Earth’s shadow a couple of hours after the game ends — a little after 10:30 pm Arrowhead Time. The eclipse will last for about three hours, and the Moon will be completely in the Earth’s shadow — the most dramatic part of the eclipse — for a little over an hour, starting at 11:16 pm Arrowhead Time.
For those of us in Kansas City — assuming the skies will be clear enough to see it, which is not assured by the current weather forecast — viewing conditions will be ideal. When totality begins, the Moon will be about 65 degrees above the horizon.
And yes... depending on the weather, there might be an opportunity for those with mad photography skills to get a very cool actual picture of the Super Wolf Blood Moon over Arrowhead during the total eclipse, instead of the fake and over-dramatized one I ginned up for this article. And if you do, please share it with us!
That’s the science. A Groovy Science Grandpa like myself can do no less.
Lunar eclipses have inspired and terrified cultures throughout history. In the King James version of the Bible, Joel 2:31 says, “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come.”
Ancient Native American tribes believed that lunar eclipses heralded great transformational changes. In the ancient Incan civilization, the Moon was believed to turn red because it was attacked by a jaguar. In Tibet, Buddhists believe that the deeds you do during an eclipse — either good or bad — are multiplied tenfold.
We have certainly seen great transformational changes in the Chiefs in 2018. Whether a lunar eclipse occurring on the day of the AFC Championship game bodes for good or evil for this season remains to be seen. The Patriots will have something to say about that — but so will the Chiefs.