When the sun goes dark, the land stands in shadow and gloom. The winds cool, them calm down completely. Time almost fails to move in the dark stillness created by the black sun. Only a gold ring remains where the once proud circle of light once stood, now enshrouded in darkness. The world awaits the coming of light redemption and hope.
These are words often used by observers of solar eclipses, the points in which the moon covers the sun for a short period of time. Though the most famous of the eclipses for their splendor and striking changes over the landscape, they are certainly not the only types there are. An eclipse could be loosely defined as the obstruction of view of an interstellar object. Solar eclipses are when the sun is blocked by the moon, and lunar eclipses are when the moon is overshadowed.
Eclipses are the result of the patterned rotations of the Earth about the sun and the moon about the Earth. Other deep space objects are blocked when we either pass into a more clouded portion of space, or when closer objects are put in front of our line of sight due to our position in space. Such patterned revolutions have allowed astronomers to calculate out exactly when these are to occur, and for how long.
Lunar eclipses happen when the Earth stands between the sun and the moon, inhibiting the moon’s ability to reflect light. This takes place once a month and is considered a phase of our moon. All the other phases too, result from the Earth casting a partial or no shadow on the moon’s surface. Some cultures referenced this as a good omen, while others saw it as a portal through which horrible demons could escape to Earth.
Solar eclipses are, of course, when the sun is overshadowed by the moon. This happens only at particular points when the angle of the sun to the Earth is such that a shadow is cast on the planet’s surface. This shadow point usually only affects one certain point on the globe, and has been recently noted in Africa in the late twentieth century. Due to the intense change that exist during these events, most cultures saw this as a bad omen of terrible tragedies to come.
Eclipses are a dazzling occurrence of celestial objects in the universe. through their intrigue and mystique, they have befuddled all the world’s cultures and influenced their thinking. Though we now know that they are not necessarily a demonic omen sent to signal the end of days, we can still marvel at their grandeur and magnificence. Though rarer than other shows provided by nature, they are free and open to anyone wishing to look up at just the right moment.
More on eclipses at www.about.com/astronomy.