Monday, April 30, 2012

Time Capsule: April 30, 1932

April 30, 1932 Records of eclipses have been kept since ancient times: there’s a Syrian clay tablet noting the eclipse of March 5, 1223 B.C. and a non-Blarney stone in Ireland that records an eclipse on November 30, 3340 B.C. A partial lunar eclipse on May 22, 1453, was seen during the Fall of Constantinople (no word on whether Childermass and company were aware of this on their visit) and Christopher Columbus, in his attempt to sway Jamaican natives, “predicted” a lunar eclipse for February 29, 1504 – albeit using pre-obtained knowledge (Connecticut resident Hank Morgan probably is aware of this trick, too).

We noted lunar eclipses – those are when the moon passes behind the earth so that the earth blocks the sun's rays from striking the moon. They’re usually astronomical events, caused by rotations and revolutions of heavenly spheres.

They’re not usually man-made events. Usually. But eighty years ago tonight man did just that – eclipse the moon. The date? Walpurgis night, when witches and warlocks have their big whoop-te-doos. The man? Conjuror Jonathan Barnavelt, during a picnic out at New Zebedee’s Wilder Creek Park [The House with a Clock in its Walls; 51]. The reason?  Eh...because he could.  Jonathan pulls it off with a wave of his staff and a pool of water, which is impressive if you have not seen it done before:
...slowly, a black, tarry, drippy shadow oozed down over the face of the surprised moon. In no time at all the moon was dark, completely dark, blacked out, without even the faint brownish umbra that marks its place during an ordinary eclipse.
Happy Walpurgis to all!

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