The Canterbury Monks and the Italian pantheist

So, today is the day. Hopefully something happens and I don’t look like a fool for getting you all hyped up about this. In case I was unclear yesterday, there is a very good chance that there will be meteors visible around 4pm today and there is a slight possibility that a lunar impact will occ This is one of those times when it’s worth looking, even if not much happens.

I mentioned that seeing lunar impacts are rare. Most are small (difficult to confirm) events reported by amateur astronomers. Since we’re almost at the point where any basic telescope will be capable of astro-photography, I’m sure someone will record something conclusive one day soon.

Up until now, however, the most famous witnessed impact was a long time ago, by human standards. A man named Fratello Gervase (or Gervase of Canterbury) was a noteworthy chronicler of events, but something crazy happened in 1178 that was especially out of the ordinary.

A depiction of daily life in the 12th century.

Gervase was probably thinking about eating some dinner, doing some light evening chronicling and winding down for the evening when five monks ran up to him with a story about something really wild they had just witnessed.

This year on the 18th of June, when the Moon, a slim crescent, first became visible, a marvelous phenomenon was seen by several men who were watching it. Suddenly, the upper horn of the crescent was split in two. From the mid point of the division, a flaming torch sprang up, spewing out over a considerable distance fire, hot coals and sparks. The body of the Moon which was below, writhed like a wounded snake. This happened a dozen times or more, and when the Moon returned to normal, the whole crescent took on a blackish appearance.

What we think they saw was an impact that formed the Giordano Bruno crater, though it’s very difficult to confirm. There are alternative theories that they saw a meteor hit our atmosphere and self destruct in just the right place, though as far fetched as the initial conclusion seems, that seems even more so. Perhaps when we can explore the crater first hand, we’ll have a better idea.

This one is fresh, but on the moon, that can still be millions of years old. Still, boom!

Giordano Bruno was a very interesting guy with some progressive (to the point of outrageous, for his time) ideas that eventually got him burned at the stake. I’m going to link to some info on him, but save him for a future post. I’m glad he got the crater named after him, since Gervase didn’t actually see anything and, if i remember correctly, the monks who did didn’t want their names recorded.

I’ll be at work today at 4pm, so hopefully I can find a way to have a look outside. I’m not expecting to see what the monks of Canterbury saw, but I’m willing to take a few minutes and do something that’s free and might yield something amazing. With astronomy, you always get something. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: even if all you wind up doing today is looking at the moon for two minutes, you win, you saw the moon. If you read this blog, you probably know more about it than 99% of the world too.

Astronomy = WINNING!


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