Monday, December 13, 2004

Through a glass darkly

My Musing this week is about a possible Irish record of the 1054 A. D. supernova, the progenitor of the famed Crab Nebula, as discussed by Irish scholars Daniel McCarthy and Aidan Breen. Here is another celestial event they discuss.

On May 1, 664 A.D., a total solar eclipse occurred in northern England. The track of darkness was centered upon the town and monastery of Whitby, site of the famous Synod of Whitby, at which King Oswy of Northumbria aligned the liturgical practice of the Celtic church with Rome.

Here is the Whitby eclipse as viewed by my Starry Night Pro sky simulation software. The Sun and Moon were in Taurus. That's the Hyades to the left, the Pleiades to right, and Mercury below.

McCarthy and Breen believe the the synod was called in that year and held in that place because the eclipse was taken as a sign of imminent Apocalypse. Presumably, King Oswy wanted to get his spiritual ducks in a row before he met his Maker.

As I say in my Musing, nature will always provide signs and portents to minds predisposed to superstition.