Canterbury Monks Observe Massive Meteor Event
The medieval era had its drawbacks: plague, constant wars, famine, monarchs of often dubious sanity and no morality; but at least there was little light pollution so observing the skies with the naked eye was far more rewarding than it is today. On a balmy June night in 1178 five young monks in Canterbury were sitting facing the moon when they saw an astounding event.
What the novices saw was recorded by Gervase of Canterbury, whose chronicle relates they observed flames erupting several times from the top horn of a bright crescent moon, followed by snake-like writhing of the surface, as it apparently split in two, and darkness enveloping that area of the moon.
Modern scientists propose two explanations of the phenomenon: it may have been a large meteorite exploding in the atmosphere in their line of sight to the moon; or more intriguingly, it may be that they witnessed a huge impact explosion that blasted a new crater on the surface of our satellite, a crater now named Giordano Bruno (in the circumstances somewhat ironically, as he was an early scientific martyr killed by the church). We can be fairly sure they witnessed something extraordinary, as they were questioned closely and stood by their story, but scientists still debate what it could have been.
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