RASHMI OBEROI | 29 JULY, 2018
Blood Moon Rising
Craziness spun out of control
It was a phenomenal experience for all the star gazers and sky watchers and astrophysicists around the world. We have just witnessed the longest ‘blood moon’ eclipse of the 21st Century. As it rose, during this total eclipse, Earth's natural satellite turned a striking shade of red blending in with a ruddy brown.
The ‘totality’ period, where light from the Moon was totally obscured, lasted for one hour, 43 minutes. At least part of the eclipse was visible from around the world. The so-called blood moon was visible at different times in Australia, Africa, Asia, Europe and South America when the sun, Earth and moon lined up perfectly, casting Earth’s shadow on the moon.
Back home, the myths and superstitions had been gaining momentum over the past week and closer to the date, the proliferating craziness spun out of control…including absolutely ludicrous updates from well-known newspaper sites, sharing information on the do’s and don’ts during a lunar eclipse that take you back to medieval times. One such link is given below (there were many by the way):
While such articles stump me and as I don’t believe in all this mumbo-jumbo… I was pointedly told that for many people in India, a lunar eclipse bears ill fortune. Apparently, food and water are covered and cleansing rituals performed. Pregnant women especially are told not to eat or carry out household work, in order to protect their unborn child. Sigh! How does one make the ignoramus see sense?
Given the endless and enduring superstitions that persist through centuries, it is extremely frustrating for scientists trying to convince everyone that the so-called ‘blood moon’ is nothing to be feared. It may be impressive, and it may be the longest for a century, but it is simply an eclipse. During such an eclipse, the full moon moves into the shadow of the Earth cast by the sun, and is momentarily darkened. Some sunlight still reaches the moon, refracted by the Earth’s atmosphere, however, illuminating it with an ashen to dark red glow, the colour depending on atmospheric conditions.
The globe has witnessed the longest celestial event of the 21st century. Lunar eclipses have fascinated cultures across the globe, and inspired several striking myths and legends, many of which portray the event as an omen. Scientists dismiss these beliefs as mere superstition. As the sky unfolds in such phenomenal situations, we should just enjoy the amazing feat and the wonders of nature and discard all the myths and superstitions and thrown them out of the window.
All those who witnessed the blood moon rising were indeed lucky. The moon turned dark as it moved into the cone-shaped shadow of the earth. Some light which was bent by the earth’s atmosphere continued to reach the moon despite being totally eclipsed by earth’s shadow. Interestingly, this was also the moment when from the moon one would have been able to see the Earth and then it would have been blocked by the Earth’s atmosphere. The rim of the Earth would then have appeared to glow because of the light scattered by the Earth’s atmosphere. On the same day, Mars was closest to Earth and was at its brightest – so an orange-star could be observed on the horizon.
In more ‘modern’ times, like ours, the full moon has become commonly associated with feelings of lunacy and fears of heightened paranoia. Strangely, isn’t this just about the right phenomenon that fits in for the situation prevalent in India?
We rumble through these jungle streets
We come alive where the blood moon rises
We come alive where the stars align!