Ancient and Modern Myths
Surrounding the Solar Eclipse
Before knowledge of astronomy became commonplace and the average person knew the scientific reason behind the total solar eclipse, the sky suddenly becoming dark in the middle of the day was a frightening event. Many ancient cultures came up with stories to explain the occurrence. Frequently those stories included a giant celestial beast (dragon, wolf, frog, bear, etc.) devouring the sun and hiding it’s light. Other eclipse mythology involved an angry god punishing humanity by taking away the sun. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though; some believed that we were banished from the sun by an angry god who wanted humans to settle their differences and that the sun would reappear once we made peace, and in Italy it was widely believed that flowers planted during an eclipse would have brighter blooms.
Some myths surrounding the solar eclipse still persist today:
-Some cultures believe that food cooked during an eclipse will be impure or poisonous. (False)
-It is a commonly held belief that harm will come to a pregnant woman or her child if she is outside during an eclipse. (False)
-The corona, or bright ring around the shadow of the moon during a solar eclipse is brighter and more harmful to your vision than just looking at the sun on a regular day. (False. Staring at the sun any time can do terrible damage to your eyes.)
Astronomers refer to the fact that humans are able to appreciate the phenomenon of a total solar eclipse as a “celestial coincidence.” Our moon is about 400 times smaller than the sun; but the moon just so happens to be about 400 times closer to us than the sun, making the two objects appear to be about the same size in the sky. The moon, however, is moving away from the earth at a rate of approximately an inch and a half a year. If humans had occurred significantly earlier or later on the Earth’s timeline, solar eclipses would look completely different.
The next solar eclipse isn’t until 2024, so put on your approved eclipse viewing glasses and enjoy it!