Shop Windows to the Universe

The Universe at Your Fingertips 2.0 DVD from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific is in our online store, filled with Earth and space science resources.
Ancient societies would act wild in order to free the Sun from the animal.
Click on image for full size
Windows to the Universe original image

Solar Eclipses Were not Always Enjoyed

Eclipses have been watched for centuries, but it was only recently that we understood what really occurs. Eclipses have always been fascinating to watch, but they weren't always welcome. For many years, civilizations around the world feared these rare occasions.

Ancient people were convinced a solar eclipse was a sign of something horrible. Some civilizations believed that the Sun was being eaten by some sort of animal, such as a dragon or wolf. They felt the only way to free the Sun was to act wild. So, the people would make noises called hullabaloos while dancing around and acting crazy. They continued this until the Sun was "free" from the animal.

Others believed an eclipse was a sign of disease and death. In South America, they believed a hidden Sun was the source of smallpox and the Spanish influenza. Some thought the Moon was evil, and chased after the Sun. In some stories, the Sun goddess was being chased by her brother, the Moon god. When he caught up with her, he would do evil things. People thought this meant evil things would happen on Earth.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Cool It! is the new card game from the Union of Concerned Scientists that teaches kids about the choices we have when it comes to climate change—and how policy and technology decisions made today will matter. Cool It! is available in our online store.

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Last Solar Eclipse of the Millennium on August 11

The last solar eclipse of this millennium occurred on August 11, 1999. Amateurs and scientists witnessed a truly awesome site. This was a total eclipse, which means the Moon completely covered the Sun....more

Solar Eclipses

An eclipse of the Sun occurs when the Earth passes through the Moon's shadow. A total eclipse of the Sun takes place only during a new moon, when the Moon is directly between the Sun and the Earth. When...more

The Solar Corona

Rising above the Sun's chromosphere , the temperature jumps sharply from a few tens of thousands of kelvins to as much as a few million kelvins in the Sun's outer atmosphere, the solar corona. Understanding...more

Solar Eclipses Were not Always Enjoyed

Eclipses have been watched for centuries, but it was only recently that we understood what really occurs. Eclipses have always been fascinating to watch, but they weren't always welcome. For many years,...more

The Photosphere - the "Surface" of the Sun

Most of the energy we receive from the Sun is the visible (white) light emitted from the photosphere. The photosphere is one of the coolest regions of the Sun (6000 K), so only a small fraction (0.1%)...more

Helmet Streamers and the Magnetic Structure of the Corona

The gas in the solar corona is at very high temperatures (typically 1-2 million kelvins in most regions) so it is almost completely in a plasma state (made up of charged particles, mostly protons and electrons)....more

Sunspots

Sunspots are dark, planet-sized regions that appear on the "surface" of the Sun. Sunspots are "dark" because they are colder than the areas around them. A large sunspot might have a temperature of about...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA