Lunar Eclipse – Sun 4th Mar 07

Amazing. Awe-inspiring. Humbling.

Last night wasn’t the first lunar eclipse I’ve seen, but I don’t think I’d ever get “used” to them, even if they came every month.

To actually see our sun 93 million miles away cast Earth’s shadow on our round neighbour 239,000 miles in the other direction, is awe-inspiring. But I can’t exactly explain why. Maybe the sight of it is just fantastic, or maybe it puts the size of our planet in perspective, hundreds of times smaller than the sun, whereas our moon is 0.02 times the volume of the earth.

Richard Dawkins comments on the world (and universe) around us in his book “Unweaving the Rainbow”. The poet Keats accused Newton of the above as he explained how light is refracted through a prism and split into its constituent colours. He basically accused Newton of taking the magic and mystery out of the world by explaining it. Dawkins explains that Keats couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Yes, a lunar eclipse is a great spectacle on its own, but how much wonderful is it when you understand exactly what causes it! Who needs magic, stories, fables, legends, spirits, ghosts, myths, gods, faith, and ignorance when we have the universe itself?! Take a look at the night sky on a totally clear night. Or a sunrise or sunset. Or look at pictures of the earth from space. We’re lucky enough as a species that our brains can not only appreciate beauty and be awe-inspired, but we can also UNDERSTAND WHY and EXPLAIN IT. That’s why science is amazing. Not only does it give us the scope to see even more of this tiny planet and vast universe, but it also gives us the BEST way possible of explaining it.

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