The SuperMoon Lunar Eclipse coming up on September 27 is creating quite a stir.
The mass media outlets love eclipses.
They give them opportunities to talk about once-in-a-lifetime events and never-before-seen cosmic phenomena.
Even if those phenomena are not really all that rare.
Take the SuperMoon Lunar Eclipse, for example.
It’s just a few days away, and the media is getting excited, describing it as the Eclipse of the Century.
They’re calling it a Blood Moon Eclipse.
They’re calling it a Harvest Moon Eclipse.
And, of course, they’re calling it a SuperMoon Lunar Eclipse.
So What’s A SuperMoon Lunar Eclipse?
It’s pretty simple, really. A SuperMoon Lunar Eclipse is just a lunar eclipse that happens at a SuperMoon.
Make that a Super Full Moon. Lunar eclipses can only happen at full moons.
And what’s a SuperMoon?
According to NASA, “A supermoon is a full or new moon that falls closest to the fall equinox, and is at its closest approach to the Earth. This results in the moon appearing up to 14% larger in diameter.”
That sounds pretty good. But it’s a more limited definition than was originally intended when the term was first used.
An Astrologer Got Here First
As I pointed out in a previous post on this blog, the term “SuperMoon” was first coined by astrologer Richard Nolle more than 30 hers ago.
He came up with the term, and since that time other astrologers and even some astronomers (most notably some of the ones at NASA) have been using it as well. It has gotten so much circulation, in fact, that it’s become a fairly common description of certain lunar phenomena.
And that’s where the confusion starts to come in.
As Richard Nolle himself puts it, “Clearly there’s a lot of confusion about what’s really a SuperMoon.
“When I see people misrepresenting the idea, not really understanding it at all, I feel impelled – not compelled – to try and set the record straight. Words mean things, after all…”
How NASA Changed The SuperMoon
Part of the confusion comes from the hysteria associated with the idea that a SuperMoon is some sort of evil omen, or a sign of certain disaster.
But even NASA has added to the mixed-up ideas about the SuperMoon.
Note that NASA’s definition says that only “a full or new moon that falls closest to the fall equinox, and is at its closest approach to the Earth” can be considered a SuperMoon.
But that doesn’t agree with Richard Nolle’s definition.
“SuperMoon is a word I coined in a 1979 article for Dell Publishing Company’s HOROSCOPE magazine, describing a new or full moon which occurs with the Moon at or near (within 90% of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit. In short, Earth, Moon and Sun are all in a line, with Moon in its nearest approach to Earth,” he explains.
Note that Nolle doesn’t limit SuperMoons to the new or full moon “closest to the fall equinox,” per the much later modification of the term by NASA.
Easier Than Perigee-Syzygy
“At any new or full moon,” Nolle goes on to say, “Earth and Moon and Sun are all in a line: Earth is in the middle in the full moon alignment, while the new moon happens with Moon in the middle. This coming together in an alignment is technically termed a syzygy.
“Sometimes – from a few times to a half-dozen times in a given year – these alignments also happen when the Moon is in its perigee, or closest approach to Earth. Astronomers call this very special alignment a perigee-syzygy. I call it a SuperMoon – which is a whole lot easier on the tongue.”
The restricted notion that NASA promotes severely limits, of course, the number of events that can be considered SuperMoons, which in turn makes SuperMoon Lunar Eclipses extremely rare indeed.
But Richard Nolle says that thinking of SuperMoons as extremely rare or unusual “is completely wrong. There are 4-6 SuperMoons a year on average.”
The SuperMoon Lunar Eclipse Roll Call
Even so, SuperMoon Lunar Eclipses, with a total lunar eclipse at the time of a SuperMoon, do occur infrequently enough that they deserve some special attention. According to Nolle’s calculations, there have just been 16 of them since the year 1900:
November 16, 1910, with the Moon at 23° Taurus
March 22, 1913, with the Moon at 01° Libra
April 2, 1930, with the Moon at 12° Libra
December 8, 1946, with the Moon at 16° Gemini
April 13, 1949, with the Moon at 22° Libra
April 2, 1950, with the Moon at 12° Libra
December 18, 1964, with the Moon at 27° Gemini
April 13, 1968, with the Moon at 23° Libra
September 8, 1979, with the Moon at 13° Pisces
December 30, 1982, with the Moon at 08° Cancer
May 8, 1985, with the Moon at 14° Scorpio
April 24, 1986, with the Moon at 04° Scorpio
September 16, 1997, with the Moon at 23° Pisces
January 21, 2000, with the Moon at 00° Leo
January 9, 2001, with the Moon at 20° Cancer
May 15, 2003, with the Moon at 24° Scorpio
When the next SuperMoon Lunar Eclipse arrives a few days from now, it will occur with the Moon in the fire sign Aries. It’s noteworthy that only of the 16 previous SuperMoon Lunar Eclipses – the one on January 21, 2000 – took place with the Moon in a fire sign.