solar eclipse

These days, we look forward to the eclipses that happen periodically with anticipation. People will even make travel plans to be at the best location to see the eclipse at its fullest coverage. This was not always the case, however. Eclipses of the distant past could even invoke fear among the people who witnessed them. Of course, in those days, they most likely didn’t know it was coming, or even what it was. On May 28, 585 BC such an eclipse occurred.

At the time of the eclipse, the Medians and Lydians were in the middle of a vicious battle. I’m sure they didn’t notice the eclipse at first, but as it became darker and darker, the situation had to seem very strange. Before long, they forgot about the vicious battle they were fighting and ran off the battlefield. “The Eclipse of Thales” was a solar eclipse that was, according to ancient Greek historian Herodotus, actually predicted accurately by the Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus. In fact, it is probably the earliest recorded as being known in advance of its occurrence, and it is believed to be the solar eclipse of May 28, 585 BC. It is not known exactly how Thales predicted the eclipse, and some scholars don’t actually believe the eclipse was ever predicted at all. Others think it was on a different date, but the eclipse of May 585 BC best matches the conditions of visibility necessary to explain the historical event.

According to Herodotus, the appearance of the eclipse was actually interpreted as an omen. It is believed to have interrupted a battle in a long-standing war between the Medes and the Lydians. American writer Isaac Asimov described this battle as “the earliest historical event whose date is known with precision to the day.” The prediction has since been called “the birth of science.” According to historical records, that eclipse “peaked over the Atlantic Ocean at 37.9°N 46.2°W and the umbral path reached south-western Anatolia in the evening hours.” The Halys River, which is the presumed site of the battle mentioned by Herodotus, was just at the edge of the margin of error for the positioning of the eclipse. Herodotus’ The Histories 1.73–74 states that “a war started in that period between the Medes and the Lydians.” Apparently, the combatants became so distraught about the darkening conditions, that they actually ran off of the battlefield. Basically saying…”I’m outta here!!” That would be an interesting end to a battle, and it makes me wonder if they were later laughed at for their “cowardice in battle!!”

Today’s solar eclipse will not be the first one I have ever seen, but it will be the first total solar eclipse I have ever seen. I most clearly recall the July 10, 1972 eclipse. It was a warm sunny day, and downtown Casper, Wyoming had set up a viewing telescope for those who wanted to have a look. Casper was not in the path of totality, so crowds were not an issue like they are this time. I find myself somewhat stunned that Casper is one of the best sites to view today’s eclipse. Casper isn’t usually a big tourist attraction, but today, we have found ourselves at the center of all the hoopla.

I’ve watched a movie about viewing a total eclipse, and people come away feeling…somehow changed after viewing one. My mind can’t seem to wrap itself around how that could happen, but I guess I’ll see how I feel afterward. For me, I think that if I feel a change it will be more because I think that the signs of the sky were placed there by God, to speak to His people. Many people may think that’s crazy, but it’s no more strange than to think that it’s accidental. The whole universe was created by God, so why wouldn’t He plan it’s every move.

So, the eclipse is over now, and I must say that the moments in totality were…amazing. The color of the atmosphere around us was not like the typical, dusk that everyone said to expect. It was different than that somehow. My son-in-law, Kevin Petersen thought so too. While we were waiting for totality, I tried to look at the things everyone said to watch for, and probably the most surprising to me was the eclipse shadows. I don’t know what I thought it would look like, but when I saw it, I startled my daughter, Corrie Petersen; my son-in-law, Kevin; and my husband, Bob Schulenberg. I shouted, “Look!! It’s the eclipse shadows!!” They are actually called Solar Eclipse Crescent Shadows. Well, my family thought I saw a snake or something, hahaha!! We also noticed, as expected, that the birds started their evening song ritual, preparing to go to sleep for the night. We might have heard crickets, but the people around us set off fireworks at that time, so we couldn’t hear that. We saw the sunset along the horizon, and afterward we had to laugh, because we all forgot to look for the stars. I caught a very faint glimpse of them in a picture I took.

Totality was an amazing experience, but I like most people think that 2 minutes and 26 seconds is a very short time. You simply don’t have time to see everything that there was to see. The cool air was, in reality, a welcome change from the heat we had been sitting in, but like the rest of the eclipse, it didn’t last very long. With the return of the sun, came the warmth of the sun again. Totality was over, and yes, maybe I was changed. I had experienced a total eclipse, and it was amazing. It was something I will never forget.

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