Solar and Lunar Eclipses
Solar and lunar eclipses have always had great mystical significance. The efforts of scientists have helped us greatly in understanding these phenomena. They continue to grab the attention of professional scientists and budding astronomers across the globe.
People around the world enjoy watching eclipses. They cherish the wonderful scenes of the moon and sun being completely or partially hidden in shadows, forever in their lives. We are advanced enough to predict the precise time and place of the eclipses. The celestial eclipses have a considerable impact on our planet!
In the modern world, people are intelligent and technologically advanced. There are several studies and investigations for exploring the complexities of the sky! The ancient civilizations considered the sky divine and feared it to an extent.
Ancient astrological perception is largely rooted in religion. As per the vedic, buddhist and jain texts, astronomical explorations have a history of over thousands of years.
The sun and the moon were regarded as gods in our ancient cultures. Individuals performed rituals and sacrifices for pleasing their ‘gods’. The eclipses filled them with great fear!
All such superstitious beliefs were attached with mythology. Over the years, astronomy started becoming less mystical and more scientific.
Calculation of planetary orbits and prediction of accurate time and place of eclipses became possible with the collaboration of astronomy and mathematics.
The sacred texts have largely influenced the development of astronomy and helped us in gaining knowledge about the eclipses.
What is a solar eclipse?
The planes of the moon’s and earth’s orbit are not actually quite aligned. The solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the earth and the sun in the daytime and blocks its view. It can be watched from certain places on earth and happens only a few times in a year.
Partial eclipses happen more frequently. A total solar eclipse happens only once in nearly three hundred years!
Total solar eclipses help scientists in exploring solar coronal structures. Astronomers across the planet gather at the perfect locations for getting a splendid view of the solar corona during a total eclipse.
We all know that sunlight is way brighter than the moonlight! Looking at the sun without protection can cause eye damage. A professional telescope or a camera obscura can be used for observing the solar eclipse. For example, a black and white film has a silver layer which protects the eye from sharp ‘light’!
What is a lunar eclipse?
Lunar eclipses occur more frequently when compared to solar eclipses. A lunar eclipse happens when the moon moves through the earth’s shadow, preventing sunlight from falling on the moon. They tend to last longer, for about an hour! A group of four total lunar eclipses (4 blood moons) are called the ‘tetrads’!
The moon looks red in color during a total lunar eclipse. A clear sky and the best location provides a splendid view of the lunar eclipse! Looking at a lunar eclipse is safe and does not require special observation equipment. However, using a small telescope will provide a perfect view!
Predicting an eclipse
Ancient Babylon scientists observed that eclipses are repeated each 6585 days and 8 hours. The cyclic period was termed as the ‘Saros’. An eclipse is repeated in the same place only once in three hundred years!
With modern technologies, scientists are able to calculate the time, location and visibility conditions of eclipses.
As per the sources, centuries ago, there was a fight happening between the Lydians and the Medes. A partial solar eclipse happened during the war, the armies became astonished by the eclipse, they stopped fighting, the whole war came to an end.
Scientists predict future eclipses by applying mathematical models and with the help of data collected using advanced technologies and satellites. It helps them prepare better for the eclipse!
Since ancient times, people looked at the celestial bodies with amusement and curiosity! The movements of the sun and the moon attained greater ‘cultural meanings’ on the earth!
The sun and the moon are regarded as major characters in ancient mythology. But as science progressed, people began to understand eclipses better! They now know that they are caused by the alignment of the objects’ orbits and are aware of the fact that the resultant shadow casting creates the spectacular scenes we enjoy!
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Check your knowledge
Answer) The solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the earth and the sun in the daytime and blocks its view.
Answer) A lunar eclipse happens when the moon moves through the earth’s shadow, preventing sunlight from falling on the moon.