Saturday, April 12, 2014
No, this coming Lunar Eclipse does NOT herald the End of Days
Predicting the End of the World (or some close approximation thereof) for astronomical events is a cottage industry that has been going on for millennia, the most recent include comet Elenin in 2011, of course the 2012 Mayan apocalypse and comet ISON in 2013 (although the doom does seem to be running out of steam lately).
Now it is Lunar Eclipses (really). If there wasn't enough real issues in the world today, Australian on-line news, the Courier Mail in Queensland, and the Mirror in the UK have been spruiking this "End of Days" nonsense which is linked to the upcoming eclipse.
This month we have a Total Lunar Eclipse coming after the opposition of Mars, in fact we will have four total eclipses of the Moon in 2014 and 2015. The Totally Eclipsed Moon is copper coloured, and Mars is red(ish), so it MUST MEAN SOMETHING!!!! Right.
Every year we have two Lunar Eclipses. To have a Lunar eclipse the Moon must cross Earth orbit when Earth is aligned with the Sun. This occurs twice a year, around 6 months apart (the drift of the timing of this occurrence means that sometimes there are more than two eclipses in a year).
While there are at least two Lunar Eclipses a year, not every year has two total eclipses, slight variations in the Earth-Moon geometry mean that sometimes we get partial eclipses, or the fainter penumbral eclipses, when the Moon passes through Earth outer shadow.
Now having four total eclipses in a row (a tetrad) is fairly rare, currently occurring every 10-20 years or so (it's more complicated than that of course). Note that world has not ended despite multiple instances of tetrads over the past few centuries. The last one was in 2003-2004 (note the world not ending) and prior to that in 1985-1986 (world failed to end again).
Or maybe you need Mars to be in opposition just before or during a tetrad (why? Because it's red of course). The chance of Mars being at opposition close to a tetrad is fairly low, but in 1967 Mars came to opposition on April 15, just before the first total Lunar Eclipse of a tetrad (on April 24 see image above). The world didn't end then either, or in 1909 when Mars came to Opposition during a tetrad, or in 1926 when Mars came to opposition shortly before a tetrad.
The take-home message is that despite multiple occurrences of Mars Oppositions/ Lunar Eclipse tetrads obet the past century there has been no "End of Days", and none in the multiple occurrences that have occured over the past millennia. So this up coming one will not be an "End of Days" either.
I'm not sure why the newspapers are promoting this nonsense, especially since there are lots of interesting things happening in the world to sell newspapers, and since the stories are full of nonsense which can be easily checked and seen to be wromg.
The Australian on-line news quote pastor John Hagee, from San Antonio as saying
"NASA has confirmed that the Tetrad has only happened three times in more than 500 years — and that it’s going to happen now."When a quick check shows that there were tetrads starting in 1909, 1927, 1949, 1967, 1985 and 2003.
Anyway, you enjoy the Total Lunar eclipse of April 15, knowing the End of Days is nowhere in sight.
Great to find one more voice of reason out there on this one. I've already corrected examiner.com who said that a lunar tetrad hasn't occurred for hundreds of years.
Keep up the good work!
WW1, WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf, Iraq.
do i won a prize?