Friday, January 7, 2011

Clay Tablets, Eclipses and iPhones

A guest post by Ken.

I rose early last Tuesday morning, eager to get a glimpse of the partial solar eclipse. It is indeed an unusual world that we live in, with the natural world mixing with the artistic and the technological world combining both. I had to make my way to the strand in Carrigaline, groggy in mind as well as in spirits. The clouds were all about, the sun not yet risen and not about to show its face even when it did.

I waited from about 8.45am to approximately 9am. The horizon, although lined with forest-covered hills, would have afforded me a beautiful view of the eclipse if it were not for the clouds. My iPhone steadily pumping out the latest Kanye West hip hop tunes, and me waiting for the sun. I had just about given up and was making my way back home when for no reason at all I turned and a break in the cloud showed me a magnificent sight. My first sunrise of the new year 2011 and an opportunity for a partial eclipse event. Of course I had not brought my eclipse viewing glasses. A closed fist would have to do, peeping through it ever so slightly and finally sighting the sun, the orange disc on which all life depends, with a bottom-left portion of it missing, eclipsed by the moon. I was delighted. I even turned off the tunes and tried to snap a picture and although not much is visible this was at least a record of the event.

Partial Solar Eclipse over Carrigaline Strand
 The coincidence in size of the apparent diameters of the Moon and Sun produces a startling event at the Earth's surface which has held mankind in awe. Many civilizations [Babylon, China, Arab dominions, Europe] have recorded these events on clay, parchment or paper and some have survived to today. In fact these records are the only way known of measuring the actual changes in the Earth's rotation over the course of the ancient recorded history. (1)

Solar Eclipse

The clouds gathered again after 10-15 minutes and they decided that that was all I would see. I was glad I had seen that much. We shall not have another one until 2015 in these parts.




1.  L. V. Morrison, F. R. Stephenson, Historical eclipses and the variability of the Earth's rotation, Journal of Geodynamics, Volume 32, Issues 1-2, August-September 2001, Pages 247-265

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