Celestial legends: The Lunar Eclipse

09 May 2023

Just days ago, on Friday, May 5th, the celestial mechanics planned an eclipse of the Moon by the Earth’s penumbra, which sadly means that there was nothing of the great celestial show to see. But there is still something to learn here!

When there is a penumbra on the Moon, the penumbra is not easily visible, and you need a certain observational experience to see it.

The magnitude of a lunar eclipse means the part of the Moon’s diameter covered by the Earth’s penumbra, or shadow. The eclipse magnitude value is expressed as a decimal fraction.

If you didn’t catch this eclipse, you didn’t miss much because the penumbral eclipse is, as we said, almost invisible anyway, but we will use this eclipse to say a few interesting things about the eclipse.

  • The oldest recorded lunar eclipse occurred on January 29, 1135, BC. and the record was compiled in China.
  • The true nature of eclipses seems to have been first discovered by Anaxagoras, a philosopher from Ionia (500-428 BC), who taught that lunar eclipses occur when the Moon enters the Earth’s shadow, and that its shadow in turn produces an eclipse of the Sun on To Earth.
  • Thucydides mentions a case from the time of the Peloponnesian War when the Athenians on one occasion did not sail from the anchorage into battle (although the hesitation could only have caused them harm) because at a crucial moment there was an eclipse of the moon.
  • From the observation of a lunar eclipse, Aristotle concludes in his famous work On the Heavens that the Earth is a spherical body because the shadow it casts on the Moon during an eclipse is rounded.

Moving along, many will agree that there is always a mythological side leaning towards the Moon, so have you heard of any of these below?

    • Stories have been told about night creatures that want to attack the Moon in an attempt to eat it – Hence the spots we see on our lovely satellite.
    • According to legends worldwide, this actually happens every thirtieth day (i.e. when the Moon is full), only this event is not always visible.

Among some nations, the eclipse of the Moon and the Sun occurs in a similar way, only that the predator is different!

  • Among the Hindus, the Sun or the Moon was swallowed by the demon Ruhai, among the Egyptians, the Moon was swallowed by some aquatic animal, and the Sun by the eel Apopi.
  • Among the Chinese, a passionate dragon is to blame for eclipses.

And have you heard this story before?

Witches apparently have a whole system prepared when going after the Moon, according to these tales. The first witch flies, tears off a piece of the Moon and hides it! Then the second rushes in, then the third and so on.

However, God then sends his angels who defeat one witch first and she then returns the piece of the Moon that she stole, then the angels do the same with the second witch and so on until the Moon becomes whole again.

And lastly, what about the red Moon legends?

Stories from the past speak of legends when the Moon releases blood caused by severe wounds. However, some think that this red color comes from the wings of the predators. Their wings are red and partially transparent, so when they cover the Moon, it looks red from our Earth! Now that is something to keep you awake at night!