The Moon On 31 January Will Be Unlike Anything Seen By Mankind In The Last 150 Years

Ever heard of the phrase ‘once in a blue moon’?

Most people use that description when making a point about something that rarely happens but perhaps we should not use the phrase this week.

This is because a blue moon is happening on 31 January and what’s more, it coincides with a lunar eclipse during a supermoon period.

The last time the three lunar events converged was 152 years ago on 31 March 1866. This once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon is the combination of the Supermoon, Bluemoon and Bloodmoon phenomena, according to the National Planetarium.

A ‘supermoon’ is when a full moon occurs at the same time as its perigee, which is the closest point of the moon's orbit with the Earth. Due to this arrangement between the two celestial bodies, the moon appears larger than it normally is, and NASA predicts this supermoon will be brighter by 14 percent.

Meanwhile, a ‘bluemoon’ is a relatively rare phenomenon when there is a second full moon in a calendar month. Happening in an average of every two-and-a-half years, this month’s first supermoon occurred during New Year’s Day, and NASA described the supermoon as the ‘biggest and brightest’ one expected for the whole 2018.

Finally, ‘bloodmoon’ refers to the appearance of the moon during a lunar eclipse, in which faint red sunbeams peek out around the edges of the moon and giving it a reddish glow. At this time, the Earth blocks part of the Sun, casting a shadow in space and the moon passes through that shadow.

According to the National Space Agency (ANGKASA), the rare lunar phenomenon will be visible throughout the country.

"The lunar eclipse phenomenon will last for five hours and 17 minutes from 6.51pm to 12.08am on Feb 1. This means that the eclipse is taking place when the moon is rising in the east (except for Sabah and Sarawak which will begin after moon rises)."

Astronomy buffs are surely in for a treat during this extremely rare celestial phenomenon but stargazers aside, this Wednesday’s super blue blood moon also carry distinct meanings for different cultures and nationalities around the world.

Being a multicultural country, Malaysians are no different. Malaysian Digest decided to find out how Malaysians from various cultures will be reacting to the super blue blood moon and the significance it holds in their beliefs.

Hindus Believe That Eclipses Are Powerful Times For Paranormal Activities, Especially Evil Forces

For the 1.78 million Hindu practitioners in Malaysia, this year’s Thaipusam will fall on the same day as the lunar eclipse, which is a very rare coincidence.

Recently, the Malaysian Hindu Sangam (MHS) council announced that all Hindu temples should be closed and have prayers temporarily stopped during the lunar eclipse.

Datuk R.S. Mohan Shan.Datuk R.S. Mohan Shan.MHS president Datuk RS Mohan Shan said his council and 20 other non-governmental organisations have agreed that all sacred places in temples should be closed during the period.

“According to Hindu belief, many activities that are done during the eclipse will have negative consequences. For example, it is not advisable for mothers to give birth during the period as it might have bad effects on the mother or the newborn baby.

“Hindus are also advised not to eat during the lunar eclipse, as according to our belief, the food will be contaminated with negative energy,” said Datuk Mohan to Malaysian Digest, adding that the restrictions have been practiced for hundreds of years.

According to Hindu astrology, the eclipses are considered inauspicious as people in Tantric practices consider them to be powerful times for paranormal activities, especially evil forces. The evil energy creates fear in the minds of pregnant women, which could affect the foetus.

In Hindu mythology, the demon Rahu is to blame for solar and lunar eclipses.In Hindu mythology, the demon Rahu is to blame for solar and lunar eclipses.

Many Hindu authorities have released guidelines for their followers to follow during eclipses. For example, the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Sanstha recommends six do’s-and-don’ts during the period, such as eating at least 9 hours before the lunar eclipse begins, not offering meals to God during the pre-eclipse period and take a bath in cold water after the eclipse.

Since this year’s Thaipusam falls at the same day with the lunar eclipse, Datuk Mohan advises Hindus not to make their vows and to close the temples during the eclipse, as practiced by their ancestors.

“The Thaipusam celebrations will be carried out as usual, but we ask for devotees to complete their rituals by 6.00pm, as the eclipse begins at around 7.40pm.

“While Batu Caves will remain open during the eclipse, many smaller temples will be closed at the time. The committee of Batu Caves has seeked advice from scholars in India, but MHS does not accept the advice as the Indian scholars have no authority here,” explained Datuk Mohan.

The closure of temples during the eclipse is practiced by most Hindus around the world. Datuk Mohan mentioned that of the thousands of temples in existence in India, only 40 temples will be opened during the eclipse.

When asked if there has ever been a Thaipusam that coincided with a lunar eclipse in the past, he said it has never happened for the last 150 years.

The atmosphere for Thaipusam this year will be much less festive as compared to other years, and Datuk Mohan wishes for Hindus to follow in the advice of MHS during the eclipse.

“Followers can do the prayer chants in their houses or temples, but not much else,” he concluded.

According to Hindu chief priest of Malaysia Sangarata Sivasri AP Muthukumara Sivachariyar, a negative radiation is emitted during an eclipse and reaches down to humans. The radiation is harmful, thus devotees are advised not to expose themselves to moonlight or sunlight during an eclipse, as reported by The Star.

Feng Shui Master Explains Why 31 January Is Not Suitable For Auspicious Events Like Marriages

Malaysian Digest met up with Kenny Hoo, founder of Good Feng Shui Geomantic Research to see if this rare astronomical phenomenon has any effect towards the practice of feng shui.

Kenny Hoo.Kenny Hoo.“On 31 January, a full moon day will occur during the time, which is also considered as the 15th lunar day. That day is regarded as the day of the pig, but it also clashes with the day for those who are born in the year of the snake.

“During this day, it is labelled in the Chinese lunar calendar as a day that is not suitable to do auspicious or important activities, such as marriages, moving to a new house or starting a new business,” Kenny told Malaysian Digest, adding that the practice applies during solar eclipses as well.

It is important to note that the restriction is not due to the eclipse, but because of the day itself in which a full moon takes place, at least according to feng shui laws. The best time to conduct those important activities is during the new moon, as it philosophises a new beginning.

“However, based on traditional Chinese belief, people would try to avoid doing major things during lunar and solar eclipses.

“According to the chi theory, during a lunar eclipse there will be stronger radiation of the yin chi or negative chi. Conversely, during a solar eclipse, the yang chi or positive chi will be lesser than normal as the sunrays are blocked by the moon.”

In the past, the ancient Chinese believed that the eclipses were due to a ‘heaven dog’ eating the moon or the sun, and in response they would burn firecrackers, play the drums or ring the bells to chase the heaven dog away.

The ancient Chinese believed that solar and lunar eclipses were caused by a hungry dog called Tiangou heaven dog trying to devour the sun or moon.The ancient Chinese believed that solar and lunar eclipses were caused by a hungry dog called Tiangou heaven dog trying to devour the sun or moon.

Even though the lunar eclipse happens close to the Chinese New Year celebrations, he insisted that it has no effect on the celebration itself and will bring no positive or negative omens.

“Some people say that having an eclipse just two weeks before the Chinese New Year will be bad, but it is not true.”

Despite his advice not to partake in important events during the eclipse, Kenny still encourage Malaysians to observe and learn to appreciate this rare celestial event.

Muslims See The Eclipse As A Sign Of God’s Power

In the Quran, Muslims are urged to observe the wonders of the celestial bodies in the skies and take it as proof of God’s majesty, as written in a verse in the Quran: "It is He who created the night and the day and the sun and the moon. All (the celestial bodies) swim along, each in its orbit.” (21:33)

In the event of an eclipse, Muslims are urged to hold a special prayer in congregation to observe the phenomena and be humbled by God’s creation.

Looking at the history of Islam, Prophet Muhammad lost his son Ibrahim when a solar eclipse happened. His believers quickly took this as a sign of the boy’s early death and his father’s sadness on that day. However, he quickly reminded them that Ibrahim’s death has nothing to do with the eclipse, and instead it was just another sign from God.

“The sun and the moon are two signs amongst the signs of Allah. They do not eclipse because of someone's death or life. So when you see them, invoke Allah and pray till the eclipse is clear,” the Prophet said, as narrated by al-Mughira bin Shu'ba.

The eclipse is also seen by Muslims as a reminder of the Day of Judgement, and to always ask for God’s forgiveness as that Day can come at any time.

During the eclipse on 31 January, the National Planetarium will also host a prayer session for Muslims to join, on top of the eclipse observation that will be organised as well.

In the past, it is understandable why many cultures view the disappearance of the moon as a bad omen as the lunar cycle in many ways determined many civilizations survival as together, sunrise and sunset determined the change of the seasons and with it food harvests, animal migrations, crop cycles and even ocean currents that lead to high tides and low tides.

So if the moon turned blood red or disappears, it appears out of the ordinary and naturally triggers alarm and premonition of danger.

However, modern skywatchers are more likely to be awe-struck rather than frightened by these rare cosmic events such as the one they are preparing for come 31 January.

Here’s How You Can Join Amateur Astronomers Around Malaysia In Viewing The Supermoon

Various astronomy clubs around the country are undoubtedly eager to see the supermoon this coming Wednesday.

Those who could not make it to the official event by the national planetarium are preparing their equipment to see the eclipse the best way possible.

For Daim, who is a member of the Astronomical Society of Penang, he is already planning a special event with his local council to give a chance for the public to observe the eclipse with telescopes.

“The event will be held at the Karpal Singh Drive in Georgetown from 7.00 pm until 11.00pm. We received support from the local municipal council to organise the event, in the forms of tents, chairs, venue and some beverages,” he said to Malaysian Digest.

As for the telescopes, the foundation has already invited telescope owners in the state to bring their telescopes to the event, and so far they have secured six telescopes for the event. On top of that, the organisers will provide binoculars to attendees as well.

The foundation often hosts observations during special astronomy sightings, such as meteor showers and lunar eclipses.

“Previously, we have had 100 to 300 attendees in our events. However, for this coming Wednesday we are expecting a lot more attendees as this phenomenon is well-publicised and it is extremely rare as well,” said Daim, adding that people don’t want to miss this once-in-a-lifetime chance.

For those who wish to observe the eclipse in a grander scale, you can attend the observation events hosted at the National Planetarium in Kuala Lumpur or the Langkawi National Observatory in Langkawi..

Other observation decks that can be visited for the activities are in Teluk Kemang, Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan; Sungai Lang Parit Baru, Sungai Ayer Tawar, Selangor; Tanjung Bidara, Malacca; Pantai Tok Jembal, Terengganu; Tun Mustapha Tower, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah; and Kampung Kubang Rawa, Salor, Kelantan.

Thanks to the advent of the internet today, stargazers can also watch the rare supermoon in the comfort of their home as the National Planetarium will be streaming the entire event on Facebook Live which you can watch here.

Last modified on Tuesday, 30 January 2018 12:25

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