This week offers a rare opportunity to see a stunning lunar eclipse, combined with a deep red "blood moon," but some believe this event could signal a cataclysmic end to life on Earth on Friday 27th July, 2018.
Friday's lunar eclipse will start just after 6pm and will last until gone midnight, making it the longest lunar eclipse this century, however it will only be visible in the UK after 9pm when the Moon comes above the horizon. An eclipse is caused when the Moon passes through Earth's shadow, it will gradually become smaller as the shadow moves across it until only a tiny crescent remains, before vanishing all together.
It's actually the second total lunar eclipse this year, but the first happened at 1pm, meaning it wasn't visible in the daytime. The previous was almost three years before that, but what makes this lunar eclipse unusual is that rather than blacking out all together, the Moon will become a deep reddish-orange colour, known as a blood moon.
Here in the UK, the eclipse will reach totality at 9.21pm and the astral event will also appear in the skies above Europe, Asia, Australia and parts of the Americas. The reason this eclipse will last longer than recent ones is because the Moon is currently at its furthest point from Earth, which means it takes longer to pass through the Earth's shadow.
All this at a time when Mars is at its closest and brightest to Earth in 15 years, making it too an orange light to lookout for low in the sky after sunset.
While fans of astrology will be making the most of this rare opportunity, it seems that some will instead be taking cover and preparing for an armageddon. Apparently it all relates to a passage in the Hebrew Bible, which states "the Sun will turn into darkness, and the Moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes." Those who believe this latest doomsday prediction think that the eclipse will bring with it a tragic event with the potential to destroy the world.
One religious preacher on YouTube has confirmed this prophecy. In a video Pastor Paul Begley tells viewers that, "we are in the era of apocalypse, and this blood moon, which will be the longest blood moon of this century is happening [...] at a time when the volcanos already erupting in Hawaii."
But, the reality is there's nothing spooky about the Moon turning red. Despite the term "moonlight," the Moon doesn't generate any light itself. The light that reaches us from the Moon is regular sunlight reflecting off of the lunar surface. Because the eclipse is caused by the Earth getting in the way and blocking that light, the Moon goes dark.
However in the case of a blood moon, the sunlight is turned red, just like it does at sunset and sunrise here on Earth. It's due to a phenomenon called Rayleigh Scattering, where short wavelengths of light in the blue spectrum are scattered as they pass through Earth's atmosphere, letting just the longer wavelengths like red and orange pass through and reach the Moon.
It's not the first time that someone has predicted the end of the world is nigh and linked it to lunar activity. In 2008 two Christian ministers claimed that the apocalypse was due in 2015. The knowledge of a pending blood moon that year was added to this and it became known as "the blood moon prophecy." I don't need to tell you that this didn't happen.
The last end of days prophecy came less than a year ago when we were told that all life on Earth was about to be wiped out thanks to an impact with a "hidden planet," which was supposed to be on a collision course with us and had avoided detection. The "Nibiru cataclysm" theory predicted the date of the apocalypse to be Saturday 23rd September, 2017, but when nothing happened it was changed to a date in April 2018.
If you miss this lunar eclipse, the next one happens in January 2019, when there will probably be a whole new list of scaremongering doomsday predictions.
5th May, 2000
The religious group Nuwaubian Nation predicted a "star holocaust". They claimed that on this date the planets would lineup, the result would mean a combined gravitational effect which would pull all of the planets in the solar system into the Sun.
27th May, 2003
Nancy Lieder, founder of the website ZetaTalk, predicted that a rogue planet was hurtling towards Earth undetected. According to her website, the planet would enter our solar system and cause a pole shift on Earth that would destroy most of humanity.
August – October, 2011
It was a busy few months for subscribers to doomsday theories as Comet Elenin passed through our solar system. The prophecies stated that as the comet traveled between Earth and the Sun it would cause a disturbance in the Earth's crust resulting in massive earthquakes and tsunamis. There were also theories that the comet would crash into Earth. Both theories were widely circulated, despite the fact that scientists said that neither options were possible.
21 December, 2012
2012 was a big year for doomsday predictions, many believed that Earth would be destroyed by an asteroid, Nibiru, or some other interplanetary object, perhaps even alien invasion. Again, scientists from NASA stated that none of those events were possible.
23 September, 2017
Conspiracy theorist David Meade predicted that a "hidden planet", which NASA, scientists, and every amateur astronomer on the planet has failed to spot would become visible in the sky and would destroy the Earth. After his 2017 prediction failed, he revised his prediction, stating the world would end on 23rd Apr, 2018 instead.