Anniversary Post: Giordano Bruno Crater

Giordano Bruno CraterIt is almost impossible to resist marking this day as the beginning of the Tang Dynasty. But I am a science nerd at heart. And so on this day in 1178, the Giordano Bruno crater was formed on the moon. How do we know? Well, there were these five monks in Canterbury and they were looking at the moon. Being the 12th century, there wasn’t a whole lot else to do. Then as now, everything on television was crap. And they saw more or less an explosion on the moon.

Gervase of Canterbury was more or less the Christ Church historian at that time. And so he related what the other monks had told him. He then wrote, “From the midpoint of the division a flaming torch sprang up, spewing out, over a considerable distance, fire, hot coals and sparks. Meanwhile the body of the Moon which was below writhed, as it were in anxiety, and to put it in the words of those who reported it to me and saw it with their own eyes, the Moon throbbed like a wounded snake. Afterwards it resumed its proper state. This phenomenon was repeated a dozen times or more, the flame assuming various twisting shapes at random and then returning to normal. Then, after these transformations, the Moon from horn to horn, that is along its whole length, took on a blackish appearance.” Pretty amazing!

The truth is that we don’t know that this asteroid impact was what created the Giordano Bruno crater. There are other explanations. For example, what they could have seen was a meteor exploding in the earth’s atmosphere, but aligned so that it looked like there was an explosion on the moon. Either way, it’s a pretty cool thing. I like to think that it was the Giordano Bruno impact. Because that crater was named after — You’ll never guess! — Giordano Bruno.

Giordano Bruno is the man who only 400 years later would be burned alive by the very same church because of various ideas he had — including that the stars were suns that were very far away and that there were other worlds. I know a lot of my atheist friends like to blame this on religion. But that’s really unfair. The problem is humanity itself. We are a fearful species and it brings out our greatest cruelty. At the same time, there are incredibly liberal religious people and incredibly fearful, vicious non-believers.

But let’s just say happy anniversary to the Giordano Bruno crater. And let us ask forgiveness for what we did to Giordano Bruno. All too often, we know not what we do.

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