Skip to comments.Get ready for the eclipse that saved Columbus
Posted on 02/19/2008 9:19:42 AM PST by BradtotheBone
The Moon will turn an eerie shade of red for people in the western hemisphere late Wednesday and early Thursday, recreating the eclipse that saved Christopher Columbus more than five centuries ago. In a lunar eclipse, the Sun, Earth and Moon are directly aligned and the Moon swings into the cone of shadow cast by the Earth.
But the Moon does not become invisible, as there is still residual light that is deflected towards it by our atmosphere. Most of this refracted light is in the red part of the spectrum and as a result the Moon, seen from Earth, turns a coppery, orange or even brownish hue.
Lunar eclipses have long been associated with superstitions and signs of ill omen, especially in battle.
The defeat of the Persian king Darius III by Alexander the Great in the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BC was foretold by soothsayers when the Moon turned blood-red a few days earlier.
And an eclipse is credited with saving the life of Christopher Columbus and his crew in 1504.
Stranded on the coast of Jamaica, the explorers were running out of food and faced with increasingly hostile local inhabitants who were refusing to provide them with any more supplies.
Columbus, looking at an astronomical almanac compiled by a German mathematician, realised that a total eclipse of the Moon would occur on February 29, 1504.
He called the native leaders and warned them if they did not cooperate, he would make the Moon disappear from the sky the following night.
The warning, of course, came true, prompting the terrified people to beg Columbus to restore the Moon -- which he did, in return for as much food as his men needed. He and the crew were rescued on June 29, 1504.
The Moon will be in total eclipse from 0301 GMT to 0351 GMT. This will be visible east of the Rocky Mountains in North America, as well as in all of Central and South America, West Africa and Western Europe. The zenith of totality is close to French Guiana.
It will be in partial eclipse from 0143 GMT to 0301 GMT, visible west of the Rockies and from the eastern Pacific, and from 0351 GMT to 0509 GMT, visible across the rest of Africa and Europe and much of South and West Asia.
Under a partial eclipse, Earth's shadow, or umbra, appears to take a "bite" out of the Moon.
The last total lunar eclipse took place on August 28 2007. The next will take place on December 21 2010.
A solar eclipse happens when the Moon swings between the Earth and the Sun.
One of my favorite stories.
To see the eclipse, some people would go outdoors, but most will read about it on the Internet. Maybe somebody will post an image.
“He called the native leaders and warned them if they did not cooperate, he would make the Moon disappear from the sky the following night.”
Ah Columbus... a masterful politician... lying, lying, lying to get what he wanted...
I’m going to be on a plane, heading for Tucson- hoping that I’ll be able to get a good view!
I saw a movie a long time ago where an explorer did this same trick. He was captured in Africa and about to be killed when he pulled out his almanac. He saw the eclipse and repeated the same warning Columbus did, and saved his life. The director proabably used Columbus story.
Get a seat on the correct side of the cabin. The moon will be to the south side. Clouds might be interesting in the red light.
To bad Bobby didn’t have an almanac on that fateful canoe trip down the Cahulawassee...
Bing Crosby did a similar bit in "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" (time travel), but using a solar eclipse.
He was about to be burned at the stake (I think) and remembered there would be an eclipse on that day. So . . . at the appropriate moment he started rattling off a train schedule - something like "Alhambra, Riverside, and CUC-A-MONGA!" just as the sun went dark. The locals panicked and turned him loose. Typical Hollywood fluff, but pretty funny in spots, with William Bendix as a goofy knight.
That must be it. I was about 10 when I saw it. I thought it was funny then!
You see, it was the eclipse.
It came into my mind in the nick of time, how Columbus,
or Cortez, or one of those people, played an eclipse as
a saving trump once, on some savages, and I saw my chance.
I could play it myself, now, and it wouldn’t be any
plagiarism, either, because I should get it in nearly
a thousand years ahead of those parties.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
I’m going to try this next time I’m about to be disembowled or beheaded to please an Aztec deity.
Imagine if some guy said “Tomorrow the sun (or moon) will be covered with a shadow; it will be an omen that the world will end. But don’t worry. I know what to do. You need to appease the angry gods with much gold and your virgin daughters (delivered to the intermediary to the Gods...ME!). Once the gold and virgins are delivered I will ask the Gods for intercession and the shadow will be removed from the sun (or moon).”
You might think he is full of it at first. But loe and behold the shadow comes, you give him what he wants, he does his mumbo jumbo and the shadow is removed. -
Another eclipse with historical significance was the lunar eclipse of August 27, 413 B.C., during the Peloponnesian War. The Athenians had been about to abandon their siege of Syracuse, but the eclipse led their superstitious general Nicias to consult the soothsayers, who told him they must wait 27 days before moving. The Syracusans forced a battle before the 27 days were up, but the delay may have made the difference in the final outcome of the campaign—the Athenian forces were all killed or captured...a total disaster.
Sorry, couldn't resist
As it turned out, the eclipse was BEHIND the plane- but the pilot got permission from air traffic control to do a 360 because so many of us were asking where to sit to get a good view. :)
It was an amazing sight to see!