In today’s space edition we will bring you some of the absorbing facts about the lunar eclipse. Well, an eclipse occurs due to the dynamic positioning of the two celestial bodies i.e Earth and the Moon relative to the Sun. On Earth’s we witness two types of eclipses – lunar eclipse and solar eclipse.
During a lunar eclipse, our Earth gets in middle of moon and Sun, blocking all the sun rays reaching the moon’s surface. The situation reverses during a solar eclipse, but with changed dynamics. While it may not be as popular as solar eclipse, but there are few facts about lunar eclipses that you may find really fascinating.
16. A lunar eclipse occurs when the three celestial bodies, that is the Sun, the Earth and moon align in a straight line, with Earth in the middle of the other two bodies. In astronomy, such occurrence is called ”syzgy.”
15. There are basically three types of lunar eclipse i.e, penumbral, partial and total. A penumbral eclipse occurs when the moon passes through Earth’s penumbra. One observes a partial lunar eclipse when only some portion of the moon enters Earth’s umbra. A total eclipse occurs when it completely enters the umbra.
14. The Danjon scale is used to measure the luminosity and brightness of the moon during an eclipse. Denoted by the letter L, the rating of lunar luminosity is done from 0 to 4, where 0 represent a dark eclipse, where the moon is almost invisible and 4 where the moon appears bright red and orange.
13. The next total lunar eclipse will occur on January 31, 2018, which will be visible in regions east of Greenwich time i.e, Asia, Australia and western North America.
12. Almost every civilization have myths and legends related to the lunar eclipse. Ancient civilization like Mayas and Chinese believed the moon being swallowed by animals during each eclipse. For some it was demons. Hindus believed (still in a popular culture) in bathing in the Ganges River after an eclipse to achieve salvation.
11. There is a good news. Unlike solar eclipses, lunar ones are safe to observe with eye protection as they do not pose any threats to our retinas.
10. Like several other ancient civilizations, Mesopotamians also believed that moon was being attacked by demons during a lunar eclipse. According to their mythology, on every lunar eclipse, moon was attacked by seven demons. Their people also believed that those demons will also attack their own king of the land. To prevent demons from attacking, the Mesoptamians made decoy kings and swap him with the real king until the eclipse was over.
9. If you have ever witnessed a total lunar eclipse, then you might have noticed the red appearance of the moon at a particular moment. The reddish color of the moon during the totality has “blood moon.” This reddish appearance is actually due to Earth’s own atmosphere.
8. For the next 80 years or so, there will be total of 85 lunar eclipses. Anyone in a specific location of the Earth will be able to witness as much as 45 total eclipses, which is about 1 lunar eclipse in about 2.5 years. Contrary to this, a solar eclipse is seen from a specific location on the Earth once in every 375 years.
7. Moon Images taken in the infrared wavelength during an eclipse revealed hundreds of “hot spots” on its surface. Various studies done on these spots have produced rather confusing results. Many important craters like Tycho has suggested this is due to stored solar heat while other crater like Gassendi indicate some sort of an internal heat source. Whatever the reason is, researchers are still unable to explain the cause of these phenomena.
6. In rare cases, when the eclipsed moon and the Sun is seen at the same time we have a situation known as selenelion. A selenelion can only occur after sunrise or before sunset, when both the celestial bodies appear above the horizon opposite to each other.
Although it’s impossible to observe both the Sun and the eclipsed Moon at the same time due to their geometrical relationship with the Earth, the refraction of light through Earth’s atmosphere causes both of them to appear much higher in the sky.
5. We won’t be able to witness lunar eclipses after 600-700 million years, only if humanity ever made it up to that mark. According to NASA, our Moon is drifting away from the Earth at a constant rate of 5 centimeters a year. At this rate, the moon will be too far to cause a total solar eclipse as well as a lunar eclipse.
4. When Christopher Columbus first arrived in the “New World” he used his mathematical and astronomical knowledge to correctly predict the lunar eclipse of Fed 29 1504. Well, Columbus didn’t do it for fun. The main reason behind his prediction of the eclipse was that he wanted himself to be seen as God-like.
Christopher Columbus predicting the lunar eclipse
Yes, after exhausting their own food supplies, he and his crew were feeding off the food supplies of local inhabitants near the coast of now-day Jamaica. Soon they ran into trouble with the locals who were refusing to feed them anymore. So Columbus had to find a way so that he can feed his entire crew.
With the local clocks and astronomical tables, he told the locals that he will make the moon disappear and when the clock hit the right time moon did get lost. As a consequence, the indigenous folks begged and cried and asked him to return their moon. So he, cunningly, asked locals for some time, after which the moon began to reappear. This incident saved him and his crew’s life that day.
3. Relatively speaking, lunar eclipses are more frequent than the solar eclipses. In reality solar and lunar eclipses occur in more or less equal numbers. However, due to the nature of two eclipses and geometrical settings on Earth and the Moon, we witness lunar eclipses far more frequent than the solar eclipses.
The reason behind this is that a solar eclipse can be witnessed 2 -5 times in a year on the Earth, but concentrates on specific areas which are only a few kilometers wide. But on the other hand, lunar eclipses, when occur can be observed by one half of the globe so appears more frequent than solar eclipses at any given location on the Earth.
2. Lunar Eclipse do not occur every month. We know that lunar eclipses only occur at the full moon phase. So it’s only fair to ask why they don’t occur every month. Since the plane in which the moon orbit’s around Earth is inclined 5 degrees compared to the plane at which Earth revolves around the Sun (known as ecliptic), lunar eclipses are relatively rare.
1. The total duration of a lunar eclipse can vary time to time. According to researchers, the longest possible duration of a lunar eclipse cannot exceed more than 3 hrs and 40 minutes. In the 21st century, the longest recorded eclipse was of about 6 minutes and 39 seconds, which was observed over the coastal regions of southeast Asia.