That’s No Moon!

Red moon eclipse

If you were lucky enough to be in London in the early hours of the 28th September and were still awake you will have been treated to a fantastic view of the lunar eclipse.

For once the English weather played ball and gave us a perfectly clear night to witness the combination of a super moon with a lunar eclipse.

If you missed it then you’ll have to wait until January 31st 2018 for the next total eclipse. This eclipse was even more significant as it was the last in a tetrad (four total eclipses) and had been the subject of many prophecies of Armageddon and our impending doom.

Regardless of a few of the ‘prophets’ being on their fourth or fifth prediction of the end times, they caused enough of a panic to warrant the Mormon Church ask its followers to stop panic buying and stock piling food and weapons as there was no cause for panic.

What was even more surprising was the announcement on the NASA website that no identifiable threat was posing a risk to Earth, rumours of concerned conference calls between senior White House Officials, Homeland Security and the normally austere NASA goes someway to explaining the uncharacteristic move.

Our society is not alone in searching for meanings in what is a spectacular yet inevitable astronomical event.

The Chinese believed that they had to make noise to prevent the moon being eaten by a dragon or other wild animal.

The Mayans and the Incans both had a similar belief that to prevent the moon being eaten by a jaguar they needed to throw spears at the moon.

Ancient Mesopotamians believed it not only an attack on the moon but also against the King; to save the King, the Mesopotamians developed a system of using a double so he would bear the brunt of any attack while the real King would be saved – a favourite of dictators and tyrants across the world.

In fact only the Hindus see anything positive in the lunar eclipse.During the lunar eclipse, Hindus believe bathing in the Ganges will allow them to achieve salvation.

The Greeks however got it completely spot on; they used the shadow of the lunar eclipse as evidence that the earth was in fact round.

Perhaps the most notorious lunar eclipse was that of March 1504.

On his fourth voyage to the New World, Columbus and his crew found themselves stranded on Jamaica after their ship was damaged beyond repair in a storm off Cuba.

The current governor of Hispaniola, Nicolás de Ovando, hated Columbus and did everything within his power to hamper any rescue attempts. This left Columbus and his men stranded for an entire year.

With no supplies, Columbus and his men were left to rely on the indigenous inhabitants of the island for food. Growing increasingly annoyed as to the volume of food Columbus and his men were consuming, the islanders called a halt to sharing their food.

Columbus had been reading an almanac of astronomical tables on board the ship and used his knowledge to scare the locals. Telling the tribe leader that his God was angry with the tribe for refusing to feed them and that his God would show his displeasure by inflaming the moon with wrath.

When the lunar eclipse began it had the desired effect, the locals panicked and started rushing to bring them food and supplies. After timing the eclipse, just before it ended Columbus told the locals they would be forgiven.

If only the inhabitants had access to a conference call with NASA to alieve their fears, the landscape of the Americas would almost certainly be very different today.