The Lunar Eclipse of May 2022—and why the heck I’ve been gone for so long

It certainly isn’t often that I create such a lengthy post title, that’s for sure. But given how long it’s been since I blogged, this feels like a once-in-a-while sort of moment.

A moment where, apparently, I deviate from my previous posting plan and show you an image of the blood moon, when last I knew, I was supposed to be talking about black holes.

Yeah, I know. My last post, written over a year ago (sorry!), was about what the movies get wrong about black holes. And the post that would have followed naturally from that one, which somehow got delayed for what feels like an eternity, was supposed to be about how to search for black holes throughout the universe.

Don’t worry, we’re still gonna get to that. Presumably in my next post.

However, there is a lunar eclipse coming up in less than a week, and I wanted to take the opportunity to review the science of an event I’ve already blogged about before. This way, I don’t need to spend quite as much time talking about the actual eclipse, and I can fill you in on why the freaking heck you missed out on science posts for a whole year and three months.

And can I just say, it feels really good to slip back into my old writing style? It’s odd, in a way—part of me wants to change things up a bit, as if I’m fearing some kind of judgment. I guess that’s just the effect the last year or so has had on me.

Continue reading

What Causes the Lunar Phases?

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We see it almost every night of our lives. For thousands of years, the greatest philosophers and astronomers alike have watched its face change and wondered why.

Step outside and observe the moon every day for a month and you will notice something fascinating. Over the course of the entire month, the moon will go through an entire cycle of phases—no more, no less.

But why?

The phases of the moon are something I’ve talked about before, but I wanted to spend some time on a few common misconceptions this time around and show you the truth behind the lunar phases. Continue reading

The Eclipse Seasons

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There can be no doubt that solar and lunar eclipses are some of the most fascinating sights for the “naked” eye. (And I say “naked” under the assumption that you know never to look directly at the sun without approved protection!)

Unless it’s during totality. Then you can take those glasses off.

But what I mean is, solar and lunar eclipses don’t require telescopes or binoculars to be seen. You don’t need to use any special equipment. You just need your eyes, and in the case of a solar eclipse, some form of protection—like solar glasses.

You may have noticed that when a solar eclipse comes up—or even a lunar eclipse—it’s all the rage. Suddenly, the media is swamped with safety warnings and calendar countdowns to the big event.

The United States just about lost its mind over the solar eclipse of August 21, 2017. And I have a feeling the next total solar eclipse to pass over the US, in seven years, will be just as dramatic.

But you might also be wondering…how do we know when these incredible sights are going to happen? Continue reading

Lunar Phases and Motion

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The lunar phases…who really understands ’em?

We see them all the time. When we look up at the moon in the sky, we’re bound to notice that it looks just a little bit different from the last time we saw it. It changes from a slivery crescent to a full circle, and then wanes back to the crescent phase again.

The moon has behaved the same way in the sky for billions of years, ever since a Mars-sized space rock collided with the newborn Earth and the debris collected into our own personal satellite.

For that long, the moon has watched over us and captivated scientists and amateur skywatchers alike.

But what are the secrets behind its monthly changes? Continue reading