Nine Fun Facts About Solar Eclipses

A solar eclipse occurs during the new moon phase, when the moon passes between Earth and the sun, casting a shadow on Earth and totally or partially blocking our view of the sun. A total solar eclipse swept across North America on Monday, April 8, offering a spectacle for tens of millions of people who live in its path and others who traveled to see it. Here are some facts about solar eclipses:

1. In ancient Greece, a solar eclipse was seen as a sign that the gods were angry and was thought to be an omen of bad things to come. The word eclipse comes from the Greek word ekleipsis which means ‚Äúbeing abandoned‚ÄĚ.

2. In ancient China, the solar and lunar eclipses were regarded as heavenly signs that foretell the future of the Emperor and so predicting eclipses was of high importance for the state. Over four millennia ago, legend has it that two astrologers, Hsi and Ho, were executed for failing to predict a solar eclipse.

3. Herodotus, the father of history, who lived in the 5th century BC, cited that the Greek philosopher Thales (ca. 624-547 BC) predicted the solar eclipse of 28 May 585 BC that put an end to the conflict between the Lydians and the Medes. Herodotus wrote: … day was all of sudden changed into night. This event had been foretold by Thales, the Milesian, who forewarned the Ionians of it, fixing for it the very year in which it took place. The Medes and the Lydians when they observed the change, ceased fighting, and were alike anxious to have terms of peace agreed on.

4. In Viking fables the sun god Sol is chased by the wolf Skoll. When the Skoll catches Sol, a solar eclipse happens. When this occurs, the people were instructed to bang pots and pans together to frighten off the wolf and return the sun.

5. On 2 August 1133 a solar eclipse occurred and King Henry I died shortly afterwards, prompting the spread of the superstition that eclipses are bad omens for rulers.

6. The Pomo, an indigenous group of people who live in the northwestern United States, tell a story of a bear who started a fight with the Sun and took a bite out of it. The Pomo name for a solar eclipse is ‚ÄúSun got bit by a bear.‚ÄĚ

7. According to the Batammaliba people from Benin and Togo in West Africa during an eclipse the Sun and Moon are fighting. The only way to stop the conflict, they believe, is for people on Earth to settle their differences.

8. In Italy, it is believed that flowers planted during a solar eclipse are brighter and more colorful than flowers planted any other time of the year.

9. Solar eclipses will come to an end. In about 600 million years, due to tides on Earth and the slowing down of the Earth’s rotation, the moon will be too far away from the Earth to cover the sun, thus bringing an end to solar eclipses.