8 Significant Astronomical Events You Should Know about (Including the Upcoming Solar Eclipse)

8 Significant Astronomical Events You Should Know about (Including the Upcoming Solar Eclipse)
A total solar eclipse is coming up on Monday, August 21, and people around the country are preparing to view this incredible astronomical sight. This solar eclipse isn't the only amazing sight the heavens have shown to humankind throughout the centuries, however. Many more solar eclipses, comets, supernovas, and other noteworthy astronomical events have put God's glory on display. Throughout history, people have observed and recorded these events, and although we may have more sophisticated UV-protective glasses and more scientific understanding, those of us living in the 21st century, like our ancestors, continue to watch astronomical events like an eclipse with awe and wonder.

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  • 1. Total Solar Eclipse, 1919

    1. Total Solar Eclipse, 1919

    The total solar eclipse that occurred this year was significant because British astronomer and mathematician Sir Arthur Eddington used it to test Albert Einstein's famous Theory of General Relativity. 

    In a fascinating experiment, Eddington was able to prove that gravity can bend light by taking pictures of stars near the sun during totality--which means the moment when the sun is completely obscured during an eclipse.


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  • 2. Total Solar Eclipse, 1868

    2. Total Solar Eclipse, 1868

    Did you know that a solar eclipse is responsible for the discovery of helium? The 1868 eclipse helped French astronomer Jules Janssen in his discovery of the gas helium. He reportedly named the gas helium after the Greek word for the sun, which is Helios.


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  • 3. Total Solar Eclipse, 1605

    3. Total Solar Eclipse, 1605

    In the year 1605, the total solar eclipse was given a scientific explanation for the first time. Although attempts at explaining the strange occurrence of an eclipse had been attempted centuries earlier, it wasn't until the Age of Enlightenmnet that astronomer Johannes Kepler provided the world with a scientific explanation. 

    In case you were wondering, the explanation of a total solar eclipse, as defined by timeanddate.com, is as follows: "Total solar eclipses occur when the New Moon comes between the Sun and Earth and casts the darkest part of its shadow, the umbra, on Earth. A full solar eclipse, known as totality, is almost as dark as night."


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  • 4. King Henry's Eclipse

    4. King Henry's Eclipse

    To this day, eclipses are surrounded by myth and superstition. This may have sprung in part from the total solar eclipse, known as King Henry's Eclipse, which occurred in 1133. King Henry I of England died shortly after the eclipse darkened the skies, leading to rumors that eclipses were bad omens.


    Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

  • 5. Halley's Comet

    5. Halley's Comet

    Halley's Comet is a comet that periodically is visible from earth. Every 74-79 years it is visible to the naked eye as it passes back through the inner Solar System. Although its progress through the heavens has been tracked since ancient times, English astronomer Edmond Halley is credited with discovering its periodic nature.

    One fun fact about Halley's Comet is that it was observed in England in the pivotal year 1066 when William the Concqueror defeated Harold II of England in the Battle of Hastings. After this battle, the Comet was depicted in the famous Bayeux Tapestry which commemorates William's victory.


    Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

  • 6. Supernova of 1604

    6. Supernova of 1604

    According to nasa.gov, "A supernova is the explosion of a star. It is the largest explosion that takes place in space." 

    In 1604 Johannes Kepler observed a supernova in the Milky Way Galaxy. Interestingly, Kepler was able to observe the supernova with his naked eye. Telescopes were not invented until several years later, but there have been no supernovas in the Milky Way to observe since 1604.


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  • 7. Ancient Ugarit Eclipse

    7. Ancient Ugarit Eclipse

    The Ugarit Eclipse occurred in 1223 B.C. in Ugarit, which was a port city in Northern Syria. Historians know that the eclipse darkened the ancient skies for just two minutes and seven seconds. Ancient historians who witnessed the eclipse reportedly said that the sun was "put to shame."


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  • 8. Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017

    8. Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017

    Last but not least is the solar eclipse coming up this Monday, August 21. This eclipse will be visible in North America, and its path of totality stretches from the Oregon coast to the South Carolina coast.

    Thousands of viewing parties have been scheduled and both professional and amateur astronomers are gearing up to watch this amazing astronomical event. 

    Make sure if you go out to observe it that you wear protective glasses!


    Some information courtesy: of www.timeanddate.com

    Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/warioman

    Publication date: August 17, 2017