Monthly Archives: September 2013
Tonight is the second night of the Harvest Moon, the time when the Moon rises earlier than ever before, right before the Autumnal Equinox.
As I mentioned in “The Tale of the Lucky Red Moon,” Harvest Moons have a profound cultural significance. China has its own Mid Autumn Moon Festival that tries to unite cultures under one Moon. You can read about this in a wonderful article at Earthsky.org
So get out tonight and enjoy this rare Harvest Moon! I plan to take a few pictures with the telescope if it’s not too cloudy here at Primland.
Hello fello triscadecaphobs! In case you wonder what that big word means, it means “fear of Friday the 13th.” An estimated 17 million people fear this very day. There is actually a long and complicated history to the fear of this day, especialy in our own culture, and I set about trying to lay this fear to rest using my knowledge of history, mythology, and of course, astronomy.
Cultural/ Historical significance of Friday the 13th.
The number 13 itself is considered unlucky for a number of reasons, especially in Western Christianity- in the Bible the disciples and Jesus add up to 13, which eventually led to the betrayal and death of the leader, (which occured on a Friday). In addition, on October 13, 1307 the Pope ordered for the murder of the hallowed Knights Templar, the most powerful Christian knights in the world.
The fear of Friday the 13th itself might have formally begun in the 19th century, with the death of Rossini, the celebrated composer of “The Barber of Seville.” On his death bed, the composer remarked that he always regarded Fridays and the number 13 as unlucky. As is often the case, this quote probably got repeated over and its influence multiplied into a whole superstition. By the way, wikipedia lists a number of famous people who have died on Friday the 13th, including Julia Child and Tupac Shakur.
So, what does this have to do with Astronomy?
Richard Beveridge, in his paper “Friday the 13th and the Mathematics of the Gregorian Calendar,” points out that there is an innate fear of Friday the 13th built into our culture from the fact that we base our time tables around the number 12- the 12 months of the year, the twelve signs of the zodiac, etc. This creates a feeling of otherness and other worldliness to the number 13. In addition, with the way we add leap years every four years, Friday the 13th occurs at random intervals, and it is very difficult to predict. Again, we fear things we can’t predict or control, which is why we fear even a date on the calendar.
Good news about Friday the 13th.
NASA recently predicted an asteroid would pass harmlessly over the Earth on Friday, April 13th, 2029. If this asteroid would pass too close, it could destroy an area the size of Texas! So I suppose you could say that some good things can come on Friday the 13th, even if they are things that don’t happen.
Well, that’s what I know about Friday the 13th. Hope some of your fears are allayed.