What a Connexion! 

31 January 2018… Remember this date with the moon…

Believe it or not… Seen it or not… This is once in a lifetime treat…
Although I had this treat twice in my life. Once in 1982 (I don’t remember much) and then in 2018. Next will be in 2037, hope to see that too.

The ever charming glowing white dusty ball (moon) had swollen with love and affection…
It was changing colours like a chameleon…
Even the scientists and the astronomers were gazing at the moon like never before.
It has been 35 years that we had seen such beautiful moon.

See the moon in the pics below.

Photo Credit : www.astro-phile.com
Photo Credit : www.astro-phile.com
Photo Credit : www.astro-phile.com

These pics were taken in the night of 31st January, 2018. This is Super Blue Blood Moon. These three lunar events separately are not uncommon, but it is rare for all three to occur at the same time.

In India, we saw this unusual moon for almost 76 minutes with our naked eye. 

We need to first understand the phenomenon of Super Blue Blood Moon. 

Super moon : It is basically the same moon, appearing somewhat brighter and bigger. The moon appears 14% larger and 40% brighter. But we cannot see much difference with the naked eye. 

This happens because the moon’s orbit around the earth is not a perfect circle. It travels in an ellipse that brings it closer to and farther from earth. The farthest point is called the apogee, about 405,500 kilometres from earth on average. Its closest point is the perigee, about 363,300 kilometres from earth. During every 27-day orbit around earth, the moon reaches both its apogee and perigee. Full moons can occur at any point along the moon’s elliptical path, but when a full moon occurs at or near the perigee, it looks slightly larger and brighter than a typical full moon. 

Blue moon : Surprisingly it has nothing to do with the colour of the moon. A blue moon happens when two full moons occur within the same calendar month. First full moon was on 2nd day of the new year 2018. And the second one on the last day of the first month of 2018. 

Normally, Earth has 12 full moons per year, which equates to one per month. But because the lunar month — the time between two new moons — averages 29.530589 days, which is shorter than most months (with the exception of February), some years have 13 full moons, Blue moons happen once every 2.7 years, which explains why the last one happened on July 31, 2015. 

Blood Moon : It is called so because of its reddish tinge, when the moon is completely bathed in earth’s shadow. This happens because when the moon is covered by Earth’s shadow, some of the light from Earth’s sunrises and sunsets falls on the moon and makes it appear red, at least from Earth. 

Lunar Eclipse : A lunar eclipse occurs when the Sun, the Earth and the Moon are so aligned that for a period of time, the full Moon passes through the shadow of Earth in space. 

Chanda mama – much bigger and colourful… and all of this in one package. This happens ‘once in a blue moon’. This saying is also picked from the very rare and unusual phenomenon. 

You know what ! When this lunar eclipse thing started around 5 in the evening, the three generations living in the same house reacted differently. 

The First generation of the Elders in home started saying-put tulsi in cooked food, don’t cook or eat anything, don’t go out in the moon, don’t cut and sew, etc. etc.

Second generation of Young minds were not into all this. They were eating, cooking, studying. They even went out to see the lunar eclipse. For them it was a show. 

Next is the third generation, like a 5 year old kid who started asking questions – ‘Grahan’ kya hota hai ? Isme kya karte hain ? 

Astonishingly he saw the moon and said – “Mumma, Aaj Chand kahan gaya ? Aur yeh black-black kya hai?” 

When he was told that – this is the moon, he refused to believe it, saying – “Mumma, Chand to white colour ka hota hai.” 

Meanwhile, the moon changed its colour to brownish red. And the kid again confirmed that this is not the moon. He said – “Dekho, yeh to red ho raha hai, white nahi hai.” 

This is a personal experience of a small child who refuses to believe anything called eclipse. Off course he has no idea about it.

The belief is like that only. Sometimes you believe what you don’t see or have never seen. And Sometimes you don’t believe what you see with your own eyes.  

An edition of Harper’s Weekly describes the total solar eclipse of 1869. Credit: Harper’s Weekly

Not going much into the details, I want to share some myths related to Eclipse from the very old ages.

First let me recite a story about Columbus and how he used the myths of eclipse.  

Christopher Columbus was on a voyage when his ship wrecked into north coast of an island, now called Jamaica. He was running out of the basic amenities of food and water. The native people welcomed him along with his crew.  They provided them with food and shelter. But, not for much long. 

Columbus crew didn’t know how to deal with the situation. Then Columbus got and idea. He formulated a plan to use lunar eclipse to get food and water support from the people. He discovered from his studies that a total lunar eclipse would occur on Feb 29, 1504. He told the people of Jamaica that the god is very angry with them and if they don’t give food to his crew. The god will show displeasure soon. 

On the expected time, he called the chief of the people of Jamaica to see the anger. People saw the black shadow on the moon. It was all dark around. Some time later it went all bloody red. The innocent people got scared and worried. They came running to Columbus and asked forgiveness. 

Columbus already knew that the eclipse would not last longer, so he told the natives that he would have to retire to confer privately with his god. When the eclipse was about to get over, Columbus came out and said, his god has pardoned the people of Jamaica. They then kept Columbus and his men well supplied and well fed until he was there. 

Some other myths sound really weird to believe. 

1. In Indian mythology, it is believed that Rahu is beheaded by the god for capturing and drinking Amrita. Rahu’s head flies into the sky and swallows the sun causing the eclipse. 

2. There are also mythical stories about a jaguar that attacked and ate moon or the big cat’s assault let to rusty or blood red colour of the moon or as people in Vietnam believe a giant frog is devouring the sun during eclipse. 

3. A tribe from California believed that moon has 20 wives and a lot of pets. Most of those pets were mountain lions and snakes, and when the moon didn’t bring them enough food to eat, they attacked and made him bleed. The eclipse would end when the moon’s wives would come in to protect him. 

4. Others believe that eclipse occur because moon is not well. People sing chants or prayers to bring it back to health. 

5. People in Africa believe that reason behind eclipse is a big fight between the sun and the moon. The resolve their issues and come together dunring eclipse, to set example for the sun and the moon to unite. 

6. Kings in the old days make people believe that kings have control over the sun as well.  

7. According to the Tibetan Buddhists, the good and the bad deeds that you commit during the duration of the Lunar Eclipse will be multiplied manifold times. So be careful what you do.  

Whatever have been the myths and the stories behind eclipse in the past, 21st century would no more listen to the anecdotes and fables. The astronomers know about the reality of eclipse since 8th century, but did not let the world know about it till the 17th century.

The fallacies would go with time. We must welcome the eclipse with a completely new perspective. With the technological boom, it is easy to capture the eclipse with camera lens and telescopes. More and more people are seeing the eclipse and enjoying the beauty in action.

Just to make note – 

– A lunar eclipse usually lasts for a few hours whereas a solar eclipse typically only lasts for a few minutes. 

– A lunar eclipse can be viewed from anywhere on the night side of the Earth. 

– Lunar and solar eclipses are closely related to each other – when there is a solar eclipse, a lunar eclipse will have occurred 2 weeks beforehand, or it will occur two weeks afterwards.

– The January 31, 2018 total lunar eclipse will be followed by a partial solar eclipse on February 15, 2018.  

– During the 21st century, there are 85 total lunar eclipses. 

– Last but not the least, stop believing on the misconceptions. 21st century must welcome the eclipses with scientific approach.