On the night of January 20, 2019, eyes lifted heavenward to witness a spectacle in the skies. Captivating millions of curious souls, a total lunar eclipse unfolded over the course of the evening; as the moon turned an eerie shade of rusty red, the Earth’s shadow slowly, yet temporarily, devoured all traces of moonlight. Although modern astronomy easily explains this natural phenomenon, each culture has developed its own mythology behind the lunar eclipse. Join us on an ethereal excursion as The StickerTalk separates lunar eclipse fact from fiction.
People have observed lunar eclipses with a combination of awe and fear for centuries. The vast majority of cultures interpreted this event as a bad omen. For example, ancient Greeks believed that a lunar eclipse meant the gods were about to unleash their wrath on the king, and many nations superstitiously claim that the moon’s dimmed beams will cause chaos for expectant mothers and their unborn babies. However, other groups viewed the lunar eclipse with hope and goodwill, using the supposed magic of the occasion to improve themselves. Tibetan eclipse watchers believe that their good deed are multiplied during the celestial celebration. Before modern technology and theories could prove that an alignment of the moon and the earth caused lunar eclipses, a plethora of explanations existed to clarify the phenomenon. The Incas though a gargantuan jaguar was eating the moon while Norsemen thought a pair of sky wolves were stalking lunar prey.
While our most recent lunar eclipse was a total lunar eclipse, there are actually three distinct types of lunar eclipses: full, partial, and penumbral. In a full lunar eclipse, Earth passes precisely between the sun and a full moon. Most lunar eclipses last no longer than 3 hours and 45 minutes. Blood moons typically coincide with total lunar eclipses; when sunlight passes through the earth’s atmosphere, it takes on a reddish tinge before it is reflected from the moon’s surface. The total eclipse of the moon coupled with this unusual variation of hue is not only visually thrilling but is also a riveting subject of scientific study.