Moon Legends


Earth's only natural satelitte has been central to the mythology of almost all human cultures that we know of. From the Greek god Selene to Tu'er Ye, the Chinese Rabbit god that lives on the moon, humans have looked up in awe and tried to understand it using the tools and knowledge available to them. For the Romans it was Luna who was the godess of the moon and it is from her name we derive the word Lunar. Early astronomers tried to make sense of the cycles, and by 5th century BCE, Babylonian astronomers had recorded the 18-year Saros cycle of lunar eclipses. The ancient Greek philosopher Anaxagoras (420's BCE) reasoned that the Sun and Moon were both giant spherical rocks, and that the latter reflected the light of the former.

By the 2nd century BCE, Seleucus of Seleucia correctly theorized that tides were due to the attraction of the Moon and Aristarchus computed the rough size and distance of the Moon from Earth, later improved on by Ptolemy about 100 CE. The Moon's regularity makes it an excellent natural time-keeper and the word month has the same root as moon. In 1609, Galileo Galilei drew one of the first telescopic drawings of the Moon showing craters and mountains, and in the age of science, it has been the subject of intense study and scrutiny ever since. Because it is tidaly locked to the Earth, no human being ever saw the 'far-side' until Oct. 7, 1959 when the Soviet Union’s Luna 3 probe passed around the other side and sent back the first grainy pictures.

From the Roman Luna, we get the words lunacy and lunatic. Philosophers Aristotle and Pliny the Elder argued that the full moon induced insanity in susceptible individuals. It it is still a common misconception that the phases of the moon affect human behaviour and that admissions to psychiatric hospitals, traffic accidents, homicides or suicides increase during a full moon. However, dozens of studies invalidate these claims. Tonight is the first night of the Skeptics on the Fringe, come and hear Dr. Alastair Bruce tell us all about the Moon missions - 7:20 Banshee Labyrinth.