An American gentleman I know, who’s sort of on the fringes of Shi‘ite mysticism, sent me an article written by a friend of his. It claims to predict the advent of the Mahdi in Ramadan 2003. The basis for this is a “prophecy” that the Mahdi will appear when both solar and lunar eclipse occur in Ramadan, and that this will take place in Ramadan next year.
I was like, Ohhh Kayyyy…, you know? This “prophecy” is obviously bogus, since whoever concocted it was unaware that lunar eclipses can only occur at the full moon (middle of the lunar month), and solar eclipses at the new moon (shortly before the start of a lunar month).
Apart from that, my question is about the claim that the double eclipse has never before happened in Ramadan. Seems to me likely that this has already occurred several times in recorded history, let alone the depths of prehistory. Especially since the eclipse depends on the sun and moon sharing the same declination; if a solar eclipse occurs in any given lunation, two weeks from then the sun and moon are if anything likelier to be near or at the same declination. If any astronomy geniuses can supply the lunations in the past when double eclipses occurred, I can check which ones were in Ramadan and thereby falsify this stuff. Thanks!
A quick glance at any list of solar and lunar eclipses (don’t know any online) would show that most total lunar eclipses are paired with a solar eclipse, either the fortnight before or a fortnight after. For example: 3rd October 1986 (total solar) and the 17th (total lunar). And I’d guess that a lunar eclipse will correspond with Ramadan on about 1 in 10 times and so this will happen several times a century.
If this prophecy is supposedly from “ancient” times (not clear from the OP), then it might require (whether stated or not) that the eclipse be visible from Mecca or some other suitable location. To ancient Muslims, an eclipse that happens over America, for instance, doesn’t happen as far as they can tell. So factor this into the equation - lunar and solar eclipse in same month, both visible from Mecca - and the probability is a lot lower.
[color=“purple”]But will the eclipses be visible from the middle east? Would this matter? I’m sure this has happened more than enough times in the past, blue moons notwithstanding, but just not visible from the middle east. Yeah this was covered in ski’s post but I’m still curious.
According to the sim at raisinbread’s link, it looks like it was only a partial solar eclipse, and it was visible in Pakistan, not Mecca. (Maybe Mecca could see something, even though it would be a lot farther from totality. How far from the central path can you be to get at least a little nick on the side of the sun?)
Location is no problem for the lunar part; lunar eclipses are visible anywhere you can see the moon.
Podkayne, that link was what the doctor ordered, thank you!
It would take just one counterexample to falsify the claim that the double eclipse in Ramadan had never occurred since the time of Adam. You would be amazed to know the number of lunar and solar eclipses happening every century. That makes for enough probability of double eclipses in Ramadan more than once. I looked just in the century before the beginning of the Hegira era, and found the lunar eclipse on March 4, 527 (15 Ramadan, 99 BH) followed two weeks later by the solar eclipse on March 18, 527 (29 Ramadan, 99 BH). I found this only 27 years into the century. Probably you could find at least one or more Ramadan double eclipses in every century. Anyone can check for themself in the catalogs of lunar and solar eclipses covering 6000 years: http://sunearth.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse/LEcat/LEcatalog.html http://sunearth.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse/SEcat/SEcatalog.html
Thanks for helping me to fight ignorance. These dodgy prophecies can be hard to pin down sometimes, but are easily debunked when they concern specific facts of hard science. Talk about bad astronomy!