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Shame-on-Columbus' eclipse coming: astronomer

MIAMI -- A Miami astronomer Monday named the upcoming lunar eclipse the 'Shame On You, Christopher Columbus Eclipse' because of its historical significance.

Jack Horkheimer, Executive Director of the Miami Space Transit Planetarium said the Dec. 9 event is a repeat of a similar eclipse the Italian explorer used to 'extort provisions from native Americans.'

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'Back in 1504 when Columbus was marooned in what is now St. Anne's Bay, Jamaica and extremely short on supplies, he decided he would frighten the natives into giving him anything he wanted,' Horkheimer said. 'Using his German almanac, he summoned the chieftains to a meeting on the afternoon of February 29th knowing that a total lunar eclipse would occur a few hours later.

'Columbus told the chieftains that God observed with disapproval how negligent they were in bringing provisions to His chosen ones. Therefore God would presently send them a clear token from heaven of the punishment they were about to receive.'

Horkeimer said a repeat of the 75-minute eclipse that natives observed that evening will begin at 6:07 p.m. EST, and be most spectacular in North and South America from a line drawn east of the Mississippi River.

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'They'll see a bit of it on the west coast, but Hawaii's not going to see it,' he said.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the earth is aligned directly between the sun and the full moon.

Horkheimer said the moon could turn various shades of red as the earth's shadow flows across its surface at speeds of more than 2,000 mph.

'The Indians were so frightened, that with great howling... they came running to the ship, laden with provisions, beseeching (Columbus) to intercede,' Horkeimer said. 'So it seems like almost cosmic justice that during the last month of the 500th anniversary of a man of great ego and small principle that the heavens themselves are proclaiming that Columbus was not such a nice guy after all by staging a lunar eclipse that will appear almost exactly like the one in 1504.'

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