An Eclipse is an astronomical event that occurs when one celestial body in the sky obscures another. During a Lunar Eclipse, the Moon moves into the shadow of Earth.
The history of the Lunar Eclipse is peppered with extraordinary tales of subterfuge, intrigue, supernatural forces, angry Gods, veiled threats, lost battles, dark omens and incredible escapes.
Many ancient civilisations were fascinated by this celestial phenomena and some early cultures were particularly attuned to it. Many had interesting explanations to account for the mysterious darkening of the night sky. Some believed it to signify a bad omen, dark energies descending on the earth, prophesies of wide spread famine, sudden death or the end of monarchies and empires. Greek witches from Thessaly even went so far as to claim responsibility for it, suggesting that they had the power to extinguish the moon’s light and draw it down from the sky.
Christopher Columbus used his knowledge of astronomy to manipulate the indigenous people of Jamaica in 1504. Columbus claimed that his God was angry with the local people’s behaviour and was going to show his displeasure by making the Moon appear “inflamed with wrath”. The son of Columbus, Ferdinand, wrote that the local tribes, “with great howling and lamentation came running from every direction to the ships laden with provisions, praying to the Admiral to intercede with his god on their behalf…” Columbus timed the eclipse with his hourglass, and shortly before it ended, he told the frightened indigenous people that they were going to be forgiven and pardoned by his god.
On the 27th July, in Australia, we will witness a Total Lunar Eclipse, also known as a Blood Moon, because of the reddish tinge the Full Moon takes on when completely eclipsed. This event is particularly significant as it is set to be the longest Total Lunar Eclipse of the 21st century, lasting 1 hour and 43 minutes. Timed to occur when the moon is furthest from the Earth, it will appear smaller in the night sky, making it a Blood Micro Moon Eclipse.
Also on the 27th July, the close proximity of Mars will make it the brightest view of the Red Planet seen in 15 years. What an exciting time in our astronomical calendar!