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Blocking out the sun
Since ancient times, people have viewed the moon completely blacking out the sun for mere minutes — the entire solar eclipse, as the moon's shadow moves across Earth, can take hours — as omens that indicate an impending miracle, the wrath of God, or the doom of a ruling dynasty.
From the earliest recorded eclipse, described on an ancient clay tablet, in Ugarit in modern-day Syria, to one that was linked to an uprising in an ancient Assyrian city, to a total solar eclipse that will surely go down in history when it dazzles the world in 2017, here are some of the most famous eclipses.
Great American Total Solar EclipseSlide 2 of 18
Great American Total Solar Eclipse
The first total solar eclipse (when the moon moves directly between Earth and the sun) visible in the United States in nearly four decades is expected to dazzle on Aug. 21, 2017. During the so-called Great American Total Solar Eclipse, the 70-mile-wide (110 kilometers) shadow cast by the moon will darken skies from Oregon to South Carolina, according to Space.com, Live Science's sister site. During most solar eclipses, the moon takes just a "bite" out of the sun — these are called partial solar eclipses.
This eclipse is particularly rare for its accessibility. The path of most total eclipses falls over water or unpopulated regions of the planet. The August event will go down as the first total solar eclipse whose path of totality stays completely in the United States since 1776, experts say, according the Space.com Total Solar Eclipse 2017 guide.
For anyone who plans to check out the summer eclipse, remember to NEVER look directly at the sun without proper eye protection, except during the brief period of totality when the moon has moved completely between the sun and Earth. [Here's how to make a solar eclipse viewer.]Slide 3 of 18
Ugarit EclipseSlide 4 of 18
One of the earliest solar eclipses recorded, the Ugarit eclipse darkened the sky for 2 minutes and 7 seconds on May 3, 1375 B.C., according to an analysis of a clay tablet, discovered in 1948. Then, a report in the journal Nature in 1989 suggested, in fact, the eclipse actually occurred on March 5, 1223 B.C. That new date was based on an historical dating of the tablet as well as an analysis of the tablet's text, which mentions the visibility of the planet Mars during the eclipse.
Mesopotamian historians in Ugarit, a port city in Northern Syria, recount that the sun was "put to shame" during this total eclipse.Slide 5 of 18
Assyrian EclipseSlide 6 of 18
In 763 B.C., the Assyrian empire, which occupied what is now Iraq, the sun was completely eclipsed for 5 minutes. Early records from the period mention the eclipse in the same passage as an insurrection in the city of Ashur, now known as Qal'at Sherqat (shown in the image) in Iraq, suggesting that the ancient people linked the two in their minds.Slide 7 of 18
Early Chinese EclipseSlide 8 of 18