For centuries, eclipses have been considered as a bad omen, foreshadowing doom and disaster. However, over time it has become apparent that solar eclipses are more of a nuisance than a threat. While there are a few solar eclipses that are truly dangerous, most of them are simply annoying. That being said, due to the increasing popularity of sky watching and astronomy, many people are now more aware of the dangers associated with an eclipse than they have ever been before. This article will explore the myths and legends surrounding solar eclipses and what science actually says about them.
The Myth About The Great Migrations Of Birds
One of the most prominent theories about why eclipses occur is that they are caused by giant birds descending from the skies. The Greek and Roman gods were thought to be able to temporarily lay aside their divinity and take on bird form, so that they could more easily spy on the Earth and its inhabitants. During an eclipse, the gods would congregate on the branches of sacred trees, where they would watch the terrified humans as they ran for cover.
This myth was most famously referenced in the 14th century work, the “De Rerum Nubium” (“On the Matter of Things to Come”), by the French astronomer and mathematician, Jean de Carcq. The myth would later inspire the 16th century work, the “The Hieroglyphics of Horapollo”, by the French scholar, Etienne de La Boétie. In it, de Boétie wrote, “…the Sun is eclipsed by a huge black bird…”
What Is An Eclipse?
An eclipse is when the moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, effectively blocking the sun’s rays from reaching our planet. In a total solar eclipse, the Earth is completely within the moon’s shadow, while in a partial solar eclipse, the edge of the moon’s shadow cuts across our planet. During a total solar eclipse, the Sun’s outer layers are completely blocked from view, and what remains is dim and red in color (this is known as “totality”). During a partial solar eclipse, only a small section of the Sun is obscured (this is known as “obscuration”).
It is important to note that during a total solar eclipse, the moon’s shadow will not just block the Sun’s rays – it will completely cover our planet. From space, a total solar eclipse looks like a bright orange disk (the Sun) eclipsing a dark blue circle (the moon).
History Of Eclipses In Mythology
It is important to note that eclipses have been a cause of concern for as long as humanity has been around. The very first written evidence of an eclipse being considered a “bad omen” comes from the Sumerian texts of the 25th century BC, when the Moon was said to “bite like a snake” during a total solar eclipse. In Greek mythology, the Titans were said to have fought among themselves during the last days of a total solar eclipse, leading to the extinction of the dinosaurs (these are the same Titans that would go on to become the Olympians of the Roman mythology).
In addition to being associated with the beginning of the end of times, eclipses were also said to have been caused by variously angry gods, who manifested into birds or dragons to cause devastation. In the Book of Revelation, the prophet John is said to have seen “a great eagle” with “a serpent [in] its claws” during a total solar eclipse. According to Greek mythology, this was the monster “Bellerophon”, who was said to have killed the giant “Lycaon” during a total solar eclipse (these stories were most likely references to the same incident).
How Is An Eclipse Measured?
While eclipses are usually measured in degrees of darkness (with zero degrees being a total solar eclipse and 90 degrees being no eclipse at all), there is also an alternative way of measuring them. Instead of looking at the amount of darkness, an eclipse can be measured in terms of how much our planet is obscured. The amount of Earth obscured by the moon during a total solar eclipse is sometimes known as a “totality”. The same is true for a partial solar eclipse. The length of a given eclipse (in terms of how much our planet is obscured) can be expressed in hours, where the length of an eclipse in hours is equal to the number of degrees of darkness multiplied by 60. For example, if a total solar eclipse were to last for three hours, the total amount of Earth obscured would be 180 degrees x 60, which equals 10,800 degrees or nearly half of the entire 360-degree circle of the Earth (this is known as “1½-sun”).
Is The Dark Side Of The Moon Always Relevant?
The dark side of the Moon refers to the portion of the Moon that faces away from Earth. During an eclipse, the dark side of the Moon will not obscure the Sun, and vice versa (this is why the dark side of the Moon is also known as the “disappearing Moon”). For this reason, eclipses cannot happen during a full moon – otherwise, the Moon would be blocking the Sun, and there would be no eclipse.
Why Does The State Of Maine Get All The Great Eclipses?
In the US state of Maine, residents are treated to a great many unusual occurrences due to the presence of a place called “Lemuel Crater”. One of the most extraordinary natural features in or around the Lemuel Crater is the “Maine Eclipse”, which occurs during a total solar eclipse. The crater, although it does not exist in the traditional sense, is actually a large lake that was formed when a massive meteorite hit the Earth some 65 million years ago. The vast majority of the meteorite was buried beneath the Earth’s surface, leaving only its iron core behind. This core then rusted over time, which resulted in the formation of an igneous rock called “spina”, which is found throughout most of the state.
What makes the Maine Eclipse so special is that the entire span of the eclipse occurs within the confines of Lemuel Crater. During the day, the Sun is visible over most of Maine, with only a very small portion “disappearing” behind the Moon. At night, the entire span of the eclipse can be seen from most of Maine, as the Sun and the Moon are in opposite positions on the other side of the Earth. As a result, during the month of August, the entire state of Maine is treated to a total solar eclipse each day.
Is There A Trend Of Growing Solar Eclipses?
Over the past few years, eclipses have been increasing in both number and totality (the duration of an eclipse). This is mostly due to the increased popularity of sky watching and astronomy, as well as the fact that our planet is now completely within the reach of telescopes.
Based on data gathered between 1970 and 2016, the American Association of Variable Star Observers reported that the number of total solar eclipses seen per year increased by 43% between 2012 and 2016, from 2.8 to 3.6. During that same period, the number of annular eclipses – where only the Moon’s shadow is cast on our planet – more than doubled, going from 1.1 to 2.3 per year. Since the early 2000s, the number of solar eclipses has been on the rise, with the number of solar eclipses visible per year now standing at over 4.5.
What Should Astronomers Do Now?
While it is generally accepted that science will continue to elucidate the mysteries of the Sun and its place in the Solar System, it seems that during the last week of August 2018, the mystery of the Sun will finally be solved.
On August 31st, the moon will align with the Earth, Sun and plane of the planets, resulting in a conjunction known as a “transit”. At that time, the entire span of the solar eclipse will be visible from most of North America, with the entirety of the Sun being obscured by the moon. The transit will last for more than four hours, giving observers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness an entire solar eclipse in the United States. From North Carolina all the way to Alaska, the United States will be able to witness this rare and remarkable event.