Sunday, June 18, 2006

What did the Canterbury monks see in 1178?

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
1178 About an hour after sunset, according to Gervase of Canterbury (c. 1141 - 1210), the famous medieval chronicler, a band of five eyewitnesses (Canterbury monks) watched as the upper horn of the bright, new crescent Moon “suddenly split in two. From the midpoint of this division a flaming torch sprang up, spewing out … fire, hot coals and sparks … The body of the moon, which was below writhed … throbbed like a wounded snake”. The phenomenon recurred another dozen times or more, the witnesses reported.

A long-held belief has it that a meteor collision witnessed by these 12th-Century Englishmen resulted in a violent explosion on the moon, so creating the moon’s Giordano Bruno crater, named after the 16th-Century astronomer burned at the stake for heresy in 1600. However, this notion doesn't hold up under scientific scrutiny, according to Paul Withers of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

“I think they happened to be at the right place at the right time to look up in the sky and see a meteor that was directly in front of the moon, coming straight towards them,” Withers said.



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