First in series of lunar eclipses Monday night

EVERETT — For some, a series of four “blood moons” could mean apocalypse, war, political upheaval, even the second coming of Christ.

For others, it’s simply a rare, fascinating scientific event.

Beginning Monday night, four total lunar eclipses are forecast over the next 18 months, at six-month intervals. All of them will be visible, weather permitting, from the United States, including the Pacific Northwest.

Monday’s eclipse begins at 9:55 p.m., peaks at 12:46 a.m. Tuesday and ends at 3:36 a.m., according to timeanddate.com.

The other eclipses are Oct. 8, 2014 and April 4 and Sept. 28, 2015.

Usually, eclipses occur in random order, according to astronomers. Occasionally, they form a pattern.

When four total lunar eclipses occur at six-month intervals, with no partial eclipses in between, the set is called a “tetrad.” Five tetrads occurred worldwide in the 20th century. according to NASA. The most recent was 2003-04, one of eight forecast for the 21st century. From 1600 to 1900, there were none.

The term “blood moon” refers to the red hue cast over the moon during a total eclipse. The color is created by the sun shining through the Earth’s atmosphere and onto the moon, according to multiple sources.

The color can vary, depending on cloud cover and other atmospheric conditions on Earth, said Mark Folkerts, president of the Everett Astronomical Society.

“It can be very, very dramatically dark red, blood red. Sometimes it’s only a pale orange. You never know in advance because it depends on the conditions.”

If you were to stand on the moon and look back toward Earth, “the rim of the Earth would be lit up with the sun behind it, and it would be red like it would be at sunset.”

Because the eclipse is occurring late in the evening on a weekday, society members decided not to host one of the group’s popular viewing parties at Harborview Park, Folkerts said. They haven’t yet decided about the upcoming eclipses, he said.

Unlike solar eclipses, lunar eclipses may be viewed with the naked eye. If the eclipse is visible, binoculars are a good way to see it, Folkerts said.

Mars will be bright in the sky and very close to the moon during the eclipse, he said. Saturn will be visible as well.

The weather could make it a moot point. The National Weather Service forecasts a 30 percent chance of rain for Everett on Monday night.

If the clouds take over, thwarted eclipse viewers may take a virtual trip to the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, which plans to broadcast its view of the eclipse live on the web at http://tinyurl.com/q8ee5l4.

The weather forecast for L.A. on Monday night: mostly clear, 56 degrees.

Space.com also is showing the eclipse live.

Plus, “if the weather doesn’t allow us to see this one, we get three more chances,” Folkerts said.

Rain or shine, the tetrad is bringing out the seers and soothsayers.

A red moon or blood-colored moon is mentioned several times in the Bible, according to OpenBible.info, usually in reference to some type of monumental event.

Each of the 2014-15 eclipses will occur during Jewish holy days — Passover in the spring and Sukkot in the fall. This timing has added fuel to the prophets’ fire.

Several books have been written about the upcoming tetrad, including one by John Hagee, pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Tex., titled “Four Blood Moons: Something is About to Change.” He predicts a “world-shaking event” in the Middle East during the tetrad period. As of Sunday, the book was 13th on the Amazon.com best seller list.

Mark Biltz, founder of El Shaddai Ministries in Bonney Lake, near Tacoma, has a book titled “Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs.”

A number of other organizations devote considerable space on their websites to debunking the prophecies. One of them is Bible Prophecy Talk.com.

Folkerts said he doesn’t pay much attention to the speculation.

“I take a very science-oriented view of those sorts of things,” he said. “It’s interesting to me that we have the chance to see four eclipses in a row from this hemisphere, one every six months. That’s a nice opportunity.”

Perhaps the most ominous sign of all: the first eclipse happens on tax day.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; bsheets@heraldnet.com.

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