Moon – the nearest neighbour of our home planet earth. The moonlight illuminates all around us in the dark night. But, have you ever wondered if it disappears suddenly ? Maybe not. You might be surprised to know that such an incident occurred almost a millennium ago. Moon suddenly disappeared from the sky in 1100 CE, and now it might be clear to us about the reason behind it.


How did it happen?

That time, the earth’s atmosphere witnessed a strange catastrophe. Enormous clouds of sulphur-affluent particles accumulated in the stratosphere and covered up the atmosphere– making the sky dark for months, even years until its disappearance or settling down to the earth surface.

Sébastien Guillet, and other co-researchers carried forward a study, that is entitled as Climatic and societal impacts of a 'firgotten' cluster of volcanic eruptions in 1108 to1110 CE. The findings of the study was reported in the journal named Scientific Reports and published in April 21, 2020.

Now it is quite clear to us that what caused it. Researchers had presumed it as the emission of sulphur particles or aerosols during a volcanic eruption from Iceland’s Hekla volcano, which is commonly known as the ‘Gateway to Hell’, in 1104 CE. But this recent study does not indict the Hekla volcano as the only culprit for that sulphurous upheaval.

Hekla Volcano

Sébasyein Guillet, the lead author from the University of Geneva, and other co-researchers wrote,
A prominent discovery arising from this revised ice-core dating is a major and till now unrecognized bipolar volcanic signal with sulfate deposition starting in late 1108 C.E. or early 1109 C.E. and persisting until early 1113 C.E. in the Greenland record.

The same can be seen for that of the revised Antarctic Ice Core Chronology, citing evidence for the same phenomenon.

Which methodology was taken?

Researchers took up the ice core analysis method (a core sample of ice which is taken from an ice sheet or glacier) to pursue the sulphur particles or aerosols that was emitted from volcano into the air, which was trapped into the ice sheets or glaciers after settling down to the earth surface.

They adapted this methodology because ice sheets can preserve proofs of volcanism (basically the aerosols erupted from volcano) over a long period of time. Though determining the exact time in a subtle way through the layers of ice sheets, is quite troublesome.


What might further correspond to this event?

To investigate what might further correspond to this phenomena, researchers found that a dark eclipse could associate with the event.

Researchers stated,
The spectacular atmospheric optical phenomena which was associated with high-altitude volcanic aerosols have caught the attention of chroniclers since ancient times. In particular, the indicated brightness of lunar eclipses can be employed both in order to detect high-altitude volcanic aerosols in the stratosphere, and in order to quantify stratospheric optical depths following large eruptions.

Reviewing historical documents and a record ‘Five Millennium Catalog of Solar Eclipse’ by NASA, there were seven lunar eclipse observed in Europe during 1100 to 1120, one of which was occurred on the 5th May, 1110.

A scribe described in the Peterborough Chronicle (a manuscript containing history of England, in the 12th century) as,
On the fifth night in May appeared the Moon shining bright in the evening, and afterwards by little and little its light gradually diminished, so that, as soon as night came, it was totally extinguished withal, that neither light, nor orb, nor anything at all of it was seen.

Contemporary astronomers did not give up. They also tried to unravel the mystery of moon’s sudden disappearance. George Frederick Chambers, an English barrister, amateur astronomer and author, wrote that,
It is obvious that this eclipse was an example of a 'black' eclipse, when the Moon becomes quite invisible instead of shining with the familiar coppery-hue.

Though it is presumed to be the cause of accumulation of sulphur aerosols in the earth's atmosphere according to the recently conducted study, the ancient astronomers or researchers did not think about it.

As mentioned in the research paper,
We found that no other evidence of volcanic dust veil, such as a dimming of the Sun, red twilight glows and/or reddish solar halos, could be found during our researches for the years 1108–1110 CE.

Henceforth what other volcano could be responsible for it?

Mount Asama Volcano

Well, as mentioned earlier that "this recent study does not indict the Hekla volcano as the only culprit for that sulphurous upheaval", though there is no strong evidence, the researchers speculate that Mount Asama in Japan may be behind it. During 1108, an enormous eruption was occurred from it which stayed for several months.

Thus all these proofs helped the researcher to rediscover the "forgotten fact" of volcanic eruption behind the disappearance of moon.

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