The truth behind the swallowing of the Moon Public Observation of the Penumbral Lunar Eclipse at Ludhiana.
My grandmother was an exceptional storyteller and I say so because she actually made me believe that on the night of lunar eclipse a big animal tries to swallow the moon.
Although I got the scientific explanation of this eclipse in my school days, but I hadn’t observed it yet in my real life and I was waiting for the opportunity to find out who is correct my grandmother, or the data in my science book!
So, just a few days back, on the night of 16th September, 2016 when I got this opportunity to observe one of the rare astronomical phenomena i.e. penumbral lunar eclipse, I was excited. I, along with my team, organized a public outreach event at Lodhi Club, Ludhiana, Punjab to provide the opportunity to the public to observe the penumbral lunar eclipse.
My task was to ensure that people get their myths about lunar eclipse debunked. I was ready for this and it is always a fun thing when you educate the masses about celestial objects. So as usual the audience was amazed to see a telescope and when they observed the moon with the help of 8inches Dobsonian Telescope, their mouths were left open with admiration. Everyone claimed that they never thought the Moon is so beautiful and the queue went longer and longer.
Then we introduced all of them to the lunar eclipse that we were going to observe. As expected, questions started pouring in about safety, how, when and why does this happen. Their various myths got debunked like Moon doesn’t get totally dark and it doesn’t cause any harm like solar eclipse does. Also they were surprised that they were witnessing one of the rarest astronomical phenomena.
Slowly we all watched Moon getting into the shadow of the Earth, and trust me there was no animal to swallow it, but in fact created by the geometry of the positions of the sun, moon and earth which line up exactly. It was beautiful and a calm phenomenon to be enjoyed and not scared of.
The questions were still pouring in, like when we are going to see next, and why there are different types of eclipses. The educators present interacted and explained all the answers.
The interactions were so interesting that we didn’t get to know when the two hours passed and we reached a point when the penumbral lunar eclipse was its peak! The applause by the excited audience on knowing the eclipse was at its peak, still rings in my head. It was truly a remarkable experience not just for me but also for all those people present there who were observing the lunar eclipse for the first time.
And yes my grandmother’s story was wrong!!!
I am going to miss that night, the energy of the crowd and their satisfied and surprised faces and I hope to repeat this experience often!
This is how science and nature bring us together in a remarkable way.