About 900 years ago, a skywatcher in England witnessed a total lunar eclipse that must have been baffling, even terrifying. Despite the fact that the night was clear and the stars shone bright, the Moon just…vanished.
During the unusually dark ecliptic blackout, the Moon was “so completely extinguished withal, that neither light, nor orb, nor anything at all of it was seen,” the person reported in a manuscript called the Peterborough Chronicle, adding that the dark Moon “continued nearly until day, and then appeared shining full and bright.”
In a recent paper published in Scientific Reports, the researchers suggest that a “‘forgotten’ cluster of volcanic eruptions” from 1108 to 1110, possibly from Japan’s deadly Mount Asama, ejected a “dust veil” over Europe, which created the shadowy eclipse. As the authors note in the study, the “darkest total lunar eclipses” recorded since 1600 CE “have all been linked to large volcanic eruptions and the Peterborough Chronicle offers “one of the longest and most detailed accounts we are aware of for any dark lunar eclipse occurring between 500 and 1800 CE”, which sparked a search for likely volcanic events that may have led to it.
“The idea that the dark total lunar of May 1110 eclipse was connected to volcanism came actually quite easily. The darkness of the 1110 total lunar eclipse has, indeed, long caught the attention of astronomers and we knew about the existence of this intriguing eclipse long before we started to work on the 1108-1110 eruptions.”