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Home / Science / The Terrible History of Blood Moons and Lunar Eclipses – Quartz

The Terrible History of Blood Moons and Lunar Eclipses – Quartz



The moon is a reliable friend. It grows and dwindles regularly, helping us to mark the passage of time. It illuminates the night sky, shines white and provides relief in the darkest hours. It's no wonder then that once upon a time, people who glowed red and disappeared during a lunar eclipse were terrified.

The second Bloodmoon 2018 will occur on July 27th. Before and after the moon he is completely darkened for an hour and 43 minutes – the longest totality of the 21st century, NASA predicts – it seems to bleed, a sinister red glow. Now we know that the strange event simply means that the moon passes through the shadow of our planet and does not reflect the light of the sun. And although we can observe that it is amazing, we do not fear that a lunar eclipse is a bad omen ̵

1; except for those who believe that a blood moon prophecy in the Bible predicts the end of days.

Historically, however, the disappearance of the moon – and the accompanying bloody coloration of a lunar eclipse – was felt to be extremely significant and disturbing, according to the 1899 The Story of Eclipse (pdf) by George Chambers. In the chapter entitled "Eclipses of the Moon in History," Chambers tells the sometimes sinister story of blood moons over millennia.

The first record shows a sign

The first record of a total lunar eclipse comes from China. It happened on January 29, 1136 BCE. Writes Chambers, or "in the 35th year of Wen-Wang on the day of Ping-Tzu." He cites the Chou-shu, or Chou Dynasty's book for record, saying it was found in 280 AD in the tomb of an emperor deceased for centuries.

This chronicle of the early days of China's Warring States found in the tomb of King Xiang of Wei this chamber references are better known as the "Bamboo Annals" (紀年 書 紀年 Zhúshū Jìnián). The text actually refers to a total lunar eclipse, which is believed to have occurred in 1059 BCE. During the reign of the last king of the Shang dynasty. It was reported that the disappearance of the moon was considered an important omen that signaled to vassal king Wen of the Zhou dynasty that it was time to challenge his Shang overlord.

The gods announce great calamity

On August 27, 413 v or the fourth year of the 91st Olympiad, according to the ancient Greek calendar, a lunar eclipse led to catastrophe for the Athenian army. The troops fought in Sicily against Syracusan troops and made themselves bad. Among the soldiers an illness broke out and their commander Niclas decided that the Athenians should leave the island. Plutarch writes in his Life of Nikias :

Everything was accordingly prepared for embarkation, and the enemy did not care about these movements because they did not expect these. But during the night, a lunar eclipse happened, in which Nicias and all the others were struck with great panic, either by ignorance or by superstition. As for a solar eclipse that occurs at the conjunction, even the ordinary people had an idea that it was caused by the insertion of the moon; but they could not easily form an idea, by the insertion of which body of the moon, when at its fullest, would suddenly lose its light and assume such a variety of colors. They therefore regarded it as a strange and supernatural phenomenon, a sign by which the gods announced a great catastrophe.

The disaster came about as expected. Chambers protests, "But it was only indirectly caused by the moon!" The Syracusan army captured the panicked Athenian soldiers before they could flee.

Doctor Profundus and the Witches' Eclipse

Edward Churton, the scholar and clergyman of the 19th century, tells the story of one of the first attempts to come to power with fake news. But the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Bradwardine – also known as Doctor Profundus – used astronomy to thwart a witch's tricks.

As the story tells, a "beautiful summer night" in 1349, while the moon was suddenly dimmed, a witch tried to take responsibility for her dramatic disappearance. Churton writes: "Make me good indemnity," she said, "for old injustice, or I will also suggest to the sun to withdraw its light from you."

Bradwardine, a mathematician and philosopher who had studied with Arab astronomers, was not cheated by the cunning. He was familiar with solar and lunar eclipse predictions. Churton explains, "Tell me," he said, "when you'll do that, and we'll believe you, or if you do not tell me, I'll tell you when the sun or moon is going to be darkened next in which part of her sphere the darkness will begin, how far she will spread and how long she will go on. "[196592002] Bradwardine proved that the greatest witchcraft and mightiest magic is knowledge.

A Bloodmoon Joke

In 1504, Christopher Columbus achieved an eclipse trick unlike that of the 14th century witch with the help of knowledge of how Bradwardine thwarted her manipulations.

As Duncan Steel in his book Eclipse: The Celestial Phenomenon that changed the course of history in June 1503, a shipwreck epidemic destroyed two of the four ships of Columbus forcing him to arrive on the Caribbean island of Jamaica. The indigenous Arawak Indians of the island fed the uninvited guests for six months. Eventually, however, they became annoyed and stopped giving up their manioc and their fish. Columbus's Spanish sailors mutinied, murdered Arawaks and stole food.

Columbus had to do something. Three days before a lunar eclipse took place on the night of February 29, he told the Arawak chief that his Christian God was angry because the locals were no longer generous. Evidence of his god's displeasure would show itself in three days, when the moon would disappear from the sky and turn red with rage. He relied on the knowledge of a coming lunar eclipse, which noted the astronomer Johannes Müller of Königsberg in the almanac of the 15th century with astronomical panels on which the sailors were based.

In fact, the moon disappeared three days later and seemed to bleed. Terrified, the Arawaks ran to the loaded Spanish ships and implored Columbus to intervene in his name for his god.

The Spaniard pretended to consider the wishes while he was privately waiting for the moon shadow. Finally, Columbus said he had negotiated a peace based on the Arawaks continuing to feed the Spaniards.

Almost a year and a half after they landed on the island, the Spaniards drove home. Soon after, the conquest of the Caribbean and the North and South American continents began in earnest. If Columbus had not tricked the Arawaks, it was possible that neither he nor his crew had returned to Spain. The world could be very different today.

Magic Tints

It is unlikely that the eclipse of July 27 will have a similarly dramatic effect on the story. We can still hope for a colorful show like that of October 13, 1837. Chambers writes that the color palette the moon showed that night was "very noteworthy." The celestial sphere went beyond the Bloodmoon and changed from copper to sea. green to neutral silvery


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