The blood moon is about to arrive – marking the longest lunar eclipse this century.
The event is set to be a stunning astronomical sight, and a demonstration of fascinating science. But some people are convinced it will be something else entirely, too: the end of the world.
There is no evidence that it will be. And there is plenty of evidence that it won’t be: including the fact that just about every lunar eclipse is hailed as a sign of the apocalypse, and none of them has actually signalled the end times.
In reality, a lunar eclipse is the result of a relatively simple process. It happens when the Earth moves right between the Moon and the Sun, blocking out the light and turning the moon a strange red colour.
They are not as spectacular as a solar eclipse – during which the Earth goes unexpectedly dark because the Sun is blocked out by the Moon – but they are a fascinating event and sight all the same.
That obvious fact has not stopped a run of reports suggesting that the end of the world might be arriving on 27 July, when the eclipse can be seen. Many of them trace back to just a few accounts – but are being amplified across the internet and seen by at least tens of thousands of people.
Many of the news outlets reporting the claims point to Paul Begley, a US man who claims to be a pastor and hosts a YouTube channel. He has posted a whole series of videos, many of which either predict the end of the world or point to current events as proof that those predictions are coming true.
Mr Begley does not appear to have claimed even that the end of the world is coming on 27 July. Instead, it is just a sign of what we already know, he has said: “it is a sign of the end times because you already are in the end times. You can’t deny that.”
The worry about lunar eclipses might be increased by the name “blood moon”. Though the phrase sounds potentially ominous or even gory, it is only a reference to the deep red colour that the moon goes during an eclipse – an effect caused by the scattering of light as it moves around the Earth, and not anything to do with bodily fluids at all.
But it has also become something of a media phenomenon in itself. Much of that seems to be attributed to the Blood Moon Prophecy – a theory that took root in 2015 when there was an unusual tetrad of lunar eclipses — four in a series, which are divided up by six full moons.
There was no particular sign during any of those lunar eclipses that the end of the world had begun. But it was the beginning of a run of articles, all of which shared entirely unevidenced claims from previously obscure prognosticators, and which have continued into the coming lunar eclipse.