Catch the darkest lunar eclipse since August 6, 1971, tonight. Should you be worried, we ask an astronomical expert and a tarot card reader
Tonight will mark the darkest total lunar eclipse in four decades. The eclipse is slated to begin from 11.53 pm on Wednesday and will last till 3.32 am on early Thursday morning. It will be visible in India, the Middle East, southern Europe and northern Africa.
During a lunar eclipse, the moon passes behind the earth, and as a result the earth blocks the sun's rays from reaching the moon. It is safe to watch a lunar eclipse with the naked eye. "This eclipse will be the darkest, because there are active volcanoes right now, which spew ash affecting the refraction of light (bending of light rays), and thus visibility. If refraction is excessive, too much light gets scattered with not much light reaching the moon, making it seem darker than usual," explains Jatin Rathod, lecturer at Nehru Planetarium. Recent volcanic activity was observed at Mt Puyehue in Chile as well as at Grimsvotn in Iceland.
Rathod adds that such eclipses are a boon for astronomers, as they are a helpful indicator of the state of the environment. "During this eclipse we will conduct experiments on how dark it gets, as well as analyse the dimness of stars," he says, adding that in the past eclipses have helped prove concepts, including the spherical shape of the earth (based on its shadow falling on the moon).
Since the darkness of the eclipse depends on atmospheric impurities, it is difficult to predict when an eclipse like this will happen again, says Rathod. The last time an eclipse such as this took place was on August 6, 1971.
Eclipses have often been deemed evil since there is a play between the forces of light (good) and dark (evil), however there is no scientific evidence for it. According to superstition, eclipses are often considered precursors to tragic events. Followers of superstition, cite the India-Bangladesh war, which took place post the 1971 eclipse, as an example.
According to superstitious beliefs, the sun/ moon is swallowed by demons during an eclipse. As the time of the eclipse is considered inauspicious, some people take a dip in holy waters while others refrain from cooking and eating for its duration, believing that germs abound at such times. Another common practice is to make pregnant women stay indoors and abstain from using sharp objects (knives, needles) to prevent deformities in unborn children.
Fear of the unknown
Rathod feels that such beliefs stem from people's fear of the unknown. "In the past, the world revolved around the sun. So, one day when it suddenly became dark in the middle of the day, they became curious. Also, viewing a solar eclipse with the naked eye is damaging, which is probably why the scriptures advised people to stay home and avoid looking at the sky," explains Rathod.
"Eclipses are very common phenomena, after all, they are just the sun, moon and earth coming in a line; if we were living on Jupiter, we would observe several eclipses, given that they have four moons," he laughs.
The moon is also likely to have a reddish tinge, as the colour red has a longer distance penetration while other colours get scattered. That's also why the horizon, sunsets/ sunrises appear crimson.
Head to the Nehru Planetarium, Dr Annie Besant Road, Worli to watch the lunar eclipse and get your questions answered by experts.
From 10 pm onwards
Water signs, be careful
Shirley Bose, tarot card reader
Eclipses are a natural phenomena and not to be feared. Since this will be a lunar eclipse, water signs (people with a sun or moon in a water sign) such as Cancer, Pisces and Scorpio are likely to be affected. After all, the moon controls all water-related phenomena such as tides and rainfall. Since it's a full moon and an eclipse, it's a double whammy and can lead to heavy rain and high waves. People born under a water sign will tend to become emotional, argumentative and prone to confrontation during the eclipse. They should be careful of what they say and avoid swimming and other water-related activities.
Similarly, solar eclipses tend to affect fire signs such as Leo, Sagittarius and Aries.