Hundreds of moons, planets and other bodies in the Solar System, and only ours — Earth and the Moon — have perfect solar eclipses. Astronomers have long noted this strange phenomenon, and the unlikely parameters that cause it. Not only that, but they happen to occur in a time in Earth’s history where they can be observed. Astronomer John Gribben writes:
Just now the Moon is about 400 times smaller than the Sun, but the Sun is 400 times farther away than the Moon, so that they look the same size on the sky. At the present moment of cosmic time, during an eclipse, the disc of the Moon almost exactly covers the disc of the Sun. In the past the Moon would have looked much bigger and would have completely obscured the Sun during eclipses; in the future, the Moon will look much smaller from Earth and a ring of sunlight will be visible even during an eclipse. Nobody has been able to think of a reason why intelligent beings capable of noticing this oddity should have evolved on Earth just at the time that the coincidence was there to be noticed. It worries me, but most people seem to accept it as just one of those things.
Even if we brush this off as coincidence, as some have tried to do, there is another layer to this. Many of the interconnected factors that allow the eclipse to occur, also allow life to exist on Earth. Continue reading
Categories: Critical Thinking, Nature
Tags: Astronomy, cosmos, Earth, eclipse, Guillermo Gonzalez, John Gribben, Moon, physics, solar eclipse, Solar System, Sun, The Privileged Planet, total eclipse
I’m sure 2012 fanatics will like this: “Ancient Mayan workshop for astronomers discovered.” The Mayans are well known for their sophisticated calendars which are at the root at 2012 fascination. This particular set of finds may extend their calendar beyond the Big End this December. Like many cultures, their science and religion were strongly linked and time keeping was needed for worship purposes. Yet all their knowledge didn’t keep their civilization from ending.
Perhaps something for our own to ponder.
The Book of Job is a most intriguing part of the Bible. The story of Job doesn’t fit into the sequence of Old Testament books and it seems Job is outside of the primary ancient Jewish world, perhaps not even Jewish. Difficult to date because of its lack of references to other history in the region, its date of writing could be anywhere from 700BC to 2000BC. It does seem that Job is well-traveled and educated. Job is full of references to older times and traditions or at least knowledge of them. As far back as Genesis, we see the establishment of stars for use in tracking time and the seasons. This was important in the millenia before clocks and calendars. Job mentions some of these stars in Job 38:31-32:
Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? Or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? (KJV)
This may not mean much at first glance, but consider the following. After Job implies God is not in control, God responds (Job 38:31-32) with a series of questions concerning the star cluster Pleiades, the constellation Orion and the star Arcturus. He asks Job if he can keep the stars of Pleiades together or break apart Orion or guide Arcturus and his sons. These questions appear to reveal the actual movements of these stellar bodies. How would the writer of Job know centuries ago that Arcturus is a runaway star traveling at immense speeds or that the stars of Orion’s famous belt are moving in such a way that someday it will no longer be a straight line or that the stars of the Pleiades cluster are moving together as one unit?
[Note: Arcturus comes from a Greek word that means “Guardian of the Bear” which is why some translations use “Bear with its cubs” (or something similar) instead of the star name. Arcturus is in the constellation Boötes (the herdsman) which is near Ursa Major and Ursa Minor (the bears/dippers).]
Blind luck? Coincidence? Lost ancient knowledge? Or something else?