Friday, 20 March 2015
An 85% solar eclipse. It certainly felt strange: dull, hazy, noticeably cold. The birds stopped singing, and the sheep gathered together in the field. It's as if the whole natural world knew something strange was afoot.
Looking through a shield, just a slim crescent of the sun remained. We now know that this results from a chance crossing of the sun's and moon's orbits, so the latter obscures our view of the former. In ancient times, however, this disruption to the natural order would have been terrifying.
Both the Mayans and Chinese put a great deal of effort into predicting eclipses. During the 14th century, the Chinese emperor executed two astronomers for failing to predict an eclipse. Many believed it heralded the end of the world. The Aztecs' infamous human sacrifices were intended to preserve the life of the sun.
Some believe this stems from an ancient race memory of a huge comet which struck earth around 10,000 years ago, and ended the ice age and nearly the human race. The sun was obscured for months, floods, fires and famine ravaged the planet, and the entire world order was rewritten. We have worshipped, prayed and sacrificed for millennia to ensure this does not happen again.
True or not, the sun is now shining fully. The birds are singing and the world has returned to normal. We have survived another eclipse.