Matters of space are so mysterious and intriguing to everyone that we will believe whatever is placed in front of us using images of monstrous Moon, sparkling stars, glorious galaxies, intricate nebulae, etc., etc. Two recent instances illustrate our innocent acceptance of other people’s words without questioning the reality behind the events or their explanations.
The first misunderstanding was about there being two blue Moons in August. Last month was a “blue Moon” month with the blue Moon on 31st August. Blue coloured images were shown, especially on the internet, to make the point more colourfully. This made people think that they would see a blue coloured Moon on 31st August. Of course there cannot be a blue coloured Moon. It is scientifically impossible. The best that the colour can change is for the Moon to become grey in colour when there is a lot of pollution in the air.
However, I myself was told by people that the Moon that they saw on 31st August was bright blue!! Imagination works wonders when awakened. However we wish that this vivid imagination was aroused and stimulated with clearer understanding of what is actually happening.
What happens during blue Moon month is that there are TWO Full Moons instead of the expected only one Full Moon each month. The lunar cycle (i.e. the lunar month) is almost exactly 29 and a half days long while our calendar months are 30 or 31 days long (except for February). Hence it is quite possible for there to be two Full Moons in one calendar month. However due to the non-matching cycles, a blue Moon month is quite rare and comes on average after about 19 months. The blue Moon terminology has come from the English language with the expression “once in a blue Moon” meaning that it occurs very rarely.
Let us not play with our imagination. One person even told me that on 31st August he saw TWO Moons close together side by side!! That was his interpretation of two full Moons in one month and he let his imagination run wild.
A very persistent rumour that has made into people’s homes is that of “Cosmo Rays from Mars Entering Earth Today”. It warns people to switch off their phones to protect themselves. We should remember that Mars is only a planet and does not produce any energy itself. It shines by reflecting the light from the Sun. It looks red only because its surface is covered with of that colour. We do have cosmic rays but they are produced from the powerful nuclear fusion reactions in the Sun. Besides, we are protected from these dangerous rays from the Sun by an envelope of our Earth’s magnetic field.
The problem with this story is that it claims that the so called cosmo rays will be entering the earth TODAY at a specified time and over a specified interval. This makes it more believable to people. Also, since it is supposed to take place TODAY, it will be accepted by anyone who reads it on any day since every day is TODAY !!
Another sensational story that has found easy listeners is that there will be three days of darkness on December 21, 22 and 23. It is explained that Universe will align and cause the Earth to be stopped in its orbit and will stop its rotation. It is true that during these days the Earth and Sun are in line with the massive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy. However this happens EVERY year. And do you know how fast the earth is moving, unnoticed by us? – It is speeding at more than 100,000 km/hr in its orbit and rotating on its axis at more than 1,000 km/hr at the equator. Try stopping a car travelling at 100 km/hr you will understand how impossible it is to stop the Earth from moving. Anyway this would still keep half the Earth in daylight and the other half in the dark of the night. How would one get rid of the Sun? It is such a scientific impossibility that even someone with basic schooling should be able to see its ridiculousness. Why do so many people accept such a tall story? Just because it has been wrongly attributed to NASA on some websites does not make it true. Since we are fascinated with astronomy and space and our mind is a vacuum waiting to be filled, we are ready to accept extraterrestrial stories without further thought.
With the doomsday interpretation of the end of the Mayan calendar to be the end of the world in 2012, the public was more than ready to be fooled. To counter our unquestioning acceptance of information and satisfy our thirst for knowledge about astronomy and space, let us introduce serious study of astronomy starting from basic levels in our schools and across our education system. The next blue Moon is expected in July 2015 with the first Full Moon in July 2, 2015 and the second Full Moon on July 31, 2015. There is time. Let us prepare ourselves NOT to see TWO BLUE Moons in July 2015.