A blood moon is the first full moon after a harvest moon, which is the full moon closest to the fall equinox. Another name for a blood moon is a hunter’s moon.
Before the advent of electricity, farmers used the light of the full moons to get work done. The harvest moon was a time they could dedicate to bringing in their fall harvest. And so a month later is the blood moon, or the hunter’s moon. This was a good time for hunters to shoot migrating birds in Europe, or track prey at night to stockpile food for Winter.
A full moon occurs every 29.5 days, so a blood moon occurs about a month after the harvest moon. A blood moon is just a regular full moon. It doesn’t appear any brighter or redder than any other full moon. The distance between the Earth and the Moon can change over the course of the month. When the moon is at its closest, a full moon can appear 10% larger and 30% brighter than when it’s further away from the Earth.
A blood moon will actually turn red when it matches up with a lunar eclipse. These occur about twice a year, so blood moons match up with lunar eclipses about every 6 years or so. At the time of this writing, the next blood moon lunar eclipse will be in 2015.
We’ve also done several episodes of Astronomy Cast about the Moon. Here’s a good one, Episode 17: Where Does the Moon Come From?