|solar eclipse, 20th March 2015|
- In ancient China, solar and lunar eclipses were regarded as heavenly signs that foretell the future of the Emperor; predicting eclipses were of high importance for the state. Over four millenniums ago, two Chinese astrologers were murdered as they failed to predict a solar eclipse. They believed that solar eclipses occured when a legendary celestial dragon devoured the Sun. They also believed that this dragon attacked the Moon during lunar eclipses. However, by 20 BCE,Chinese astronomers realized the true nature of solar eclipses, and by CE 206, Chinese astronomers were able to predict solar eclipses by analyzing the motion of the Moon.
- In Mesopotamia, the plain between the two great rivers Tigris and Euphrates, the Babylonian astronomers observed the motions of the Sun, Moon and planets carefully and kept records of the celestial events. They are also credited with remarkable contributions to ancient astronomy. Babylonian astronomers recorded the eclipses of May 3rd, 1375 BCE; July 31st, 1036 BCE, and Assyrians recorded the solar eclipse of June 15th, 763 BCE in Nineva.
- The ancient Greek astronomers made remarkable contributions to astronomy. For instance, Eratosthenes (276-194 BCE) estimated the circumference of the Earth with a remarkable accuracy by measuring the angles of the shadows cast at noon in Aswan and Alexandria on the day of the summer solstice. They also had great knowledge of eclipses. Claudius Ptolemy (ca. 87-150 CE) wrote about eclipses. His writings show that he studied the lunar orbit carefully and had a sophisticated scheme for predicting both solar and lunar eclipses.
- Muslim prophet Mohammad witnessed the annular solar eclipse of 27 January 632. He stated explicitly and definitely that the eclipses of the Sun and the Moon are not bad omens, but are cosmic spectacles that demonstrate the might and knowledge of Allah the Great.
- The Egyptian astronomer Ibn Yunus (950-1009), who was regarded as one of the greatest observational astronomers of his time, made important, precise observations of lunar and solar eclipses in Cairo.
- In modern times, two solar eclipses were particulary significant:
- In 1868, the French astronomer Jules Janssen discovered the element helium when he observed the spectrum of the Sun during a total eclipse in India.
- The total solar eclipse of 29 May 1919 is famous for astronomical observations that were carried out during that eclipse and confirmed some of Einstein's work on general relativity.
|solar eclipse 20th March 2015|