The last total solar eclipse!

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The history and gloomy future of the total solar eclipse are examined here. The results may surprise you. So read on and be sure to share the knowledge!

Most people now, are scrambling in an attempt to find the absolute best way to watch the upcoming solar eclipse on August 21’st 2017, whether that be by hot air balloon, camping, or airplane – nobody wants to miss this. However, there is some interesting history behind seeing total solar eclipses and some equally interesting facts about the future of them.

History

The first recorded total solar eclipse was astonishingly enough, back in November 30, 3340 BCE! Imagine how scared those Neolithic astronomers must have been to see their sun disappearing! Must have thought it to be the end of the world! This solar eclipse was recorded in stone and is now the gorgeous “Loughcrew Cairn L Megalithic Monument” located in the foggy hills of Ireland. Contrary to modern opinion of eclipses, we can judge from these ancient writings, that eclipses during this time were seen as bad omens and a sign of bad things to come.

Although unclear as to the origin of some of these myths; some cultures believed that they must hide their women and kids inside and away from the eclipse. Some even believed pregnant women shouldn’t witness an eclipse because it could harm their unborn baby – and if that¬†child was born during an eclipse, that it would turn to a mouse! No kidding.

Thankfully we can now see past these types of superstitions and celebrate these events.. But for how much longer? 

Future

Solar eclipse variants (total vs partial) occur because the moon orbits our Earth on an elliptical pattern. Sometimes the moon is closer to Earth and other times it is a bit further. Partial eclipses happen when the moon is on it’s furthest point from Earth in it’s orbit, and usually we see a “Ring of Fire” around the moon. Total eclipses occur when the moon is close enough in it’s orbit to earth that it blocks out the sun completely.

To understand the future of the “Total Eclipse” you need to know a bit of science that goes into the moon’s orbit. The Earth and moon are in a sort of “Energy Sharing” hosted from the rotational speed of Earth and the orbit of the moon itself. The moon’s orbit can speed up slightly due to feeding off the energy of the Earth’s rotation, resulting in Earth’s rotation slowing slightly. Then the Earth’s rotation speeds up due to the energy of the excelerated moon’s orbit. This results in the moon losing some of it’s energy, thus slows down in its orbit.

This exchange of energy, even though extremely slight, actually has an impact in the orbit of the moon. The moon is slowly drifting away from Earth at a rate of 3.8 cm per year. NASA states:

We know this because we can fire a pulse of laser light at the corner cubic laser reflectors left on the moon by the Apollo missions and time its return. 3.8cm per year is not very much perhaps, but over millions of years, it certainly adds up.

This essentially means that at some point in time, Earth and the moon will be so far apart that the moon will no longer be able to fully block the sun from Earth’s view and will result in no more total eclipses. Now, this isn’t going to occur for at least another 650 million years, but hey… lets enjoy it while we can!

Author - David Mann
Photo credits in order:
Michail Kirkov
Rob Hurson
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
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Hear Hear Official is a community profile for all Authors, when one or more authors work together to build the article.