1st of 4 lunar eclipses seen Tuesday morning

Some call 'Blood Moon' doomsday warning

Joe James of Fort Lauderdale took this photo in Beaufort, S.C. before heading back to South Florida.
Joe James of Fort Lauderdale took this photo in Beaufort, S.C. before heading back to South Florida.

MIAMI – Tuesday morning's total lunar eclipse appeared to turn the moon an eerie shade of red. Astronomers explained that dust and other particles in the Earth's atmosphere will color the passing light, causing it to appear red.

The last time stargazers in South Florida witnessed a "Blood Moon" was in 2011, but Tuesday's was the first of four lunar eclipses in the next two years.

A telescope or binoculars were not necessary to witness this event, but viewers had to wake up in the middle of the night since the best time to see it was around 3:46 a.m. 

PHOTOS: Local 10 viewers' blood moon snapshots

"The Earth's atmosphere will be bending the sunlight, and it will cause the colors from all the sunrises and sunsets to shine into space in the direction of the moon," said Mark Bennett, planetarium manager at the Frost Museum of Science in Miami.

Bennett said it's an astronomical event worth staying up for, but to some, a"Blood Moon" is a doomsday warning sent from the heavens.

According to Mark Lavallee, an assistant professor of practical theology at Barry University, the origin of the superstition is biblical.

The Prophet Joel, in Hebrew Scripture, told followers, "The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord."

Lavallee said Joel was foretelling the day when all the world's religions would follow one god. To his followers, those were words of hope, but Lavallee reminds doomsday believers to keep the context of Joel's prophecy in mind.

"Prophecies are always given to a particular audience," Lavallee said. "That's the nature of interpretation; you have interpret scripture for present time. You can't just take the older form and put it in present time and say it just matches up, because that message wasn't really for the audience today."