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On July 27, some people get a rare celestial treat: the longest total lunar eclipse of the century. As the Earth snuggles into perfect alignment between the moon and sun, its shadow will completely cover the moon. Rather than appearing as a black spot in the heavens, however, our sole natural satellite will exude a blood-red hue.
Yes, it's the blood moon. And while skywatchers today will look up to the heavens in awe (if they're in the right spot), people long ago took a change in lunar hue as a sign of doom — a good reason to panic.
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For instance, folklore suggests that Christopher Columbus knew a lunar eclipse would happen on Feb. 29, 1504, and used this to his advantage.
What is Manhattanhenge?
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Sunsets in New York City can be spectacular, but during certain days in May and July, the alignment of Earth and the sun creates an unusually striking phenomenon known as "Manhattanhenge," when the setting sun lines up within the grid layout of the city streets.
Columbus and his men had been trapped on an island, now known as Jamaica, for over six months. As time wore on, the initial generosity that the indigenous people, the Arawak, had shown faded. As famine loomed, Columbus turned to an almanac published by a German astronomer and mathematician, Johannes Müller von Königsberg, also known as Regiomontanus, only to find out that a total lunar eclipse was forthcoming, according to Space.com.
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When the blood moon indeed rose that eerie Sunday night, it reportedly terrified the Arawak. They agreed to provide Columbus and his men with anything they needed, just so long as he asked his god to bring back the regular moon.
Normally, sunlight hits the moon directly and that's why it's typically bright and white. But during an eclipse, the Earth moves directly between the...
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