Four Planets in Night-Sky Summit

This month will see a fascinating display of four planets–Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter–‘dancing’ around each other to be connected with a crescent moon at the end of the May.  The article is quite interesting and makes note of this:

What might ancient sky watchers from 500 or 1,000 years ago have ascribed to such a series of gatherings as this?

Most likely, they would have felt a mixture of fear and wonder. A fine example was a case in 1186 A.D. when an unusual gathering of the five planets visible to the naked eye resulted in a near-panic across the whole of Europe after religious leaders predicted that worldwide disasters would result!

via A fascinating dance of 4 planets in night sky – Technology & science – Space – Space.com – msnbc.com.

The article cites 1186, and they are probably talking about the supposed prediction of John of Toledo in 1179 that the alignment would be a sign of the end of the world; unfortunately, I cannot track down a reliable source other than websites which just repeat the claim–so I am unconvinced of this presently.  But that doesn’t change the fact that this month has tenaciously held a place in the hearts of conspiracy theorists and fundamentalists, it seems.  On May 5, 2000, a large planetary alignment meant that groups gathered with fear in anticipation that the end was near!   With religious fanatics still claiming the end is near (at the end of the month), one can surely see how people continue to repeat history in a way indicative of sci-fi.

2 Responses

  1. I have seen this claim in Jean Meeus, “Mathematical Astronomy Morsels” (1997), p. 268. However, a source isn’t given, and Meeus is not a historian.

    Google Answers also has a thread on the subject with some sources as well.
    http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=69293

  2. I think the claim is bunk, really. The author probably got the information from an online list that anyone can find by Googling. Just another example of the media creating false claims about the past because they didn’t check their sources.

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