The Moon and the Sun

Last night something that hasn’t happened in 327 years occurred. Well, two events actually occurred last night, but the fact that they happened at the same time created the rarity. I’m talking about the total lunar eclipse that just so happened to align itself with the winter solstice. This hasnt happened since 1683. In addition, there was a minor meteor shower during the peak of the eclipse. All said, this made for an interesting night of moon and star gazing. I was excited.

The winter solstice marks the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere. This occurs when the sun is at its lowest in the sky because the Earth’s north pole, with its axial tilt, is pointing away from it. Because of this, today is the shortest day of the year and also had the longest night. Being that last night was the longest night of the year meant that it was also the darkest, which allowed for perfect viewing. The minor meteor shower would not have been able to be seen had it not been the darkest day of the year.

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth get between the full moon and the sun, blocking the sun’s rays from reflecting off the lunar surface. Not every full moon produces an eclipse but it can only occur during a full moon. There have been 2 full lunar eclipse’ in 2010.

Over the centuries, lunar eclipse’ have generated much lore and even fear. There are those that think the full moon affects their behavior; or that there is most definitely a physical connection between the moon and humans. To the Athenians in the 5th century B.C., a lunar eclipse was seen as a bad omen. Their superstitions led them to delay the siege of Syracuse, which as a result, changed the course of the war. Christopher Columbus, correctly predicted an eclipse in 1504 and used it to frighten natives on Jamaica into feeding his crew.

Science tells us that eclipses are the simple result of predictable celestial alignments. Research has shown no connection between the full moon and human behavior yet many people still believe in the myths. The fact that these myths have been in existence since the beginning of man leads me to the conclusion that people will always believe in these silly myths. In the words of Stevie Wonder,

“When you believe in things
that you don’t understand
and you suffer
Superstition ain’t the way”

Hope you enjoyed this lesson in Lunar science. The moon and the sun will continue to fascinate, inspire, motivate, enthuse, and move. Here’s a couple of tunes that have been inspired by the moon and its powers.

Also keep an eye out for a moon-and-sun-themed podcast from Shady Groove in the near future.

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