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Why did eclipses used to be terrifying?

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“These days, we know exactly when eclipses are going to happen – we even look forward to them. But humans didn’t learn to predict eclipses because they were exciting – it was because long ago, eclipses were terrifying…

“For people living thousands of years ago, the sun suddenly vanishing from the sky was a pretty alarming experience. Even the Chinese word for eclipse literally means ‘to eat,’ as in, the Sun is being eaten by a dragon. So it’s no wonder that ancient people came up with all sorts of different explanations for both solar and lunar eclipses and tried to understand when they might happen again.”

Go back in history with this Minute Earth video, when the ancient civilization of Babylon, as well as cultures in areas now known as China and England, undertook extensive efforts to understand eclipses.

bamboo records of eclipse events in ancient China
Attempts around the globe not only created myths and folklore, but these calculations also resulted in astonishingly precise forecasts, playing a pivotal role in the development of modern astronomy.

what's causing the eclipse? what's happening?
NASA Heliophysics Education Activation Team (NASA HEAT), part of NASA’s Science Activation projects, supported this video.

Related links include this Five Millennium Canon of Solar Eclipses and this Cuneiform tablet: ephemeris of eclipses.

Watch these related videos next:
• What are the different types of eclipses?
• How was Stonehenge created?
How does Leap Year work?
• Carl Sagan’s Cosmic Calendar
• Universal Calendar Puzzle: Figure out the day of the week for any date ever
• Japan’s 72 Micro-Seasons of Impermanence.

Plus: The story of Eratosthenes and Earth’s circumference, as told by Carl Sagan.

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