Science

Why Does The Moon Turn Red During A Solar Eclipse?

When the moon turned red thousands of years ago, ancient Mayans and Mesopotamians believed that something enormous and evil was eating it. They would yell and howl at the night sky in an attempt to battle the eager monsters. Since a typical lunar eclipse lasts around 100 minutes they were convinced that their howling and crying really worked.

We now know that the moon doesn’t need our protection, but why does it turn red in the first place? Whenever you look up at a full moon, you are seeing sunlight that is reflected off the lunar surface. If something were to block that sunlight like earth, then, in theory, the moon should disappear from our view. During a total lunar eclipse, when the moon passes through the earth’s shadow, we get a red moon. Not a vanishing one. So, what is going on?

Earth’s atmosphere bends red wavelengths of light around the planet. That redness you see during a blood moon eclipse is a combination of light from every sunrise and sunset on earth, all happening at once. So the moon appears red for the same reason that sunrises and sunsets on earth are red also known as the phenomenon of Rayleigh Scattering. Discovered in the 19th century, Rayleigh Scattering describes how different colors of sunlight interact with earth’s atmosphere. Now that you know why the Moon turns red during a Solar Eclipse, why not enjoy it to its fullest. After all, it is the only time when you can see the sunrise and sunset simultaneously.      

Alessandra Quevedo

Alessandra Quevedo is a 12th grader. She writes science editorials and is a marketing specialist for the Newspaper Team. Her favorite food is cheesecake.

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