May 28, 2010
If you have no knowledge of how the Earth and Sun and Moon move, an eclipse is a scary thing. With no warning, the Sun goes black and your world turns dark. An eclipse, however, is really just the shadow of the Moon passing over the Earth, as seen in the above photo (a NASA image taken by an astronaut on the International Space Station). But the phenomenon still hasn’t lost all of its magic in modern times; there are people who chase them across the globe. They can do so because solar eclipses are now completely and easily predictable.
The first predicted eclipse ended a war. On this day in 585 B.C., after five years of battle in Asia Minor, the Lydians and Medians stopped fighting when the Moon eclipsed the Sun, according to the Greek historian Herodotus. Solar eclipses had been recorded prior to this, but the one in 585 (though it may have been 610 B.C., depending on which historian you ask) was the first to be predicted, by Greek philosopher Thales of Milete.
Some call the 585 eclipse the “birth of science,” which would make science 2,595 years old today. Happy birthday, science!
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