April 6

648 B.C.E.

The first recorded solar eclipse was today in 648 BCE, known as Archilochus' Eclipsethough Herodotus claims there was one during the battle between the Medians and Lydians, the NASA website in my link suggests there were several even earlier, and who knows what was going on with Joshua in the Valley of Ayalan when:-

"Yehoshu'a spoke to YHVH on the day when YHVH delivered up the Emori before the children of Yisra-El, and he said in the sight of Yisra-El: Sun, stand still upon Giv-On; and you, Moon, in the valley of Ayalon. And the sun stood silent, and the moon stayed still, until the people had avenged themselves against their enemies. Is this not written in the book of Yashar? And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and did not hasten to go down for an entire day.…" 
                                                                                                              (Joshua 10:12-13)

Romulus was supposedly conceived at the moment of an eclipse; which makes for good mythology, but lousy anthropology; even if they were doing it outside, you would have thought the parents would have been too pre-occupied at that precise instant to notice what was happening in the heavens.

I am drafting this blog-entry on August 21st 2017, while a full solar eclipse is taking place across the United States; not visible in Europe alas, but my North American friends are all posting Facebook photos, mostly of their dogs with special goggles to protect them from going blind. Full details of that apparently magnificent event are also on the NASA website - click here.

For the statisticians: there is an eclipse - either lunar or solar - somewhere on Earth, roughly every 18 months (the one in the photo at the top of the page was in Zambia last year, though I guess every eclipse ever looks just like that one), but recurrence in any given place is limited to at best once in 300 years - which almost made me one of the lucky ones on January 9th 2001, except that my diary describes only disappointment, where it had hoped to record history:

   Twenty hour full moon and total lunar eclipse. All the major planets are close enough to earth

to be discernible by the naked eye, and Orion is at the meridian. As the moon climbs through the eastern sky in Gemini, it goes into total eclipse, a process that takes well over an hour while it lies in the umbra and turns a dull but coppery blood red, sharpened both by atmospheric dust and the Quadrantids meteor shower. All this I know because I read it in the newspaper. As to seeing it, not so much as a glimpse. Thick cloud. Heavy rain. Nothing. So much for that!

But miss one cosmic event, and there is always another... to be missed. Probably the Messiah knocked on my door, one day when I was out, and I mistook the message he left me for just another piece of advertising spam...

June 8th 2004 it was, the Transit of Venus, the first since 1882 (you can just see her, at 3 o'clock in the photo above).

The picture above was in Africa somewhere, though it wasn't the lunar eclipse that I did manage to witness, in Mochudi in Botswana, in August 1978; itself an extraordinary sight, though nothing to compare with watching the slow progress of Hale-Bopp, every unclouded night for weeks on end, in 1996 and '97.

The one below is one of my most very absolutely favouritest photos ever. People will have travelled great distances and at great expense to be where they are, but what the hell, these are just minor human achievements, a mere sphinx, one of so boringly many pyramids - but look up there, is it an endangered bird about to be shot down, is it a hijacked plane, is it Richard Branson's first passenger-spaceship en route to turn Mars into a toilet, is it the Ubermensch, is it a giant screen and they’re showing the Superbowl? No, it's that nearest thing we can ever get to a real god-moment, some far distant planet that happens by pure coincidence of time and space to be passing across the face of the sun - and it will blind you if you watch it unprotected. Sadly, this god-moment too was not visible from the UK.

Some human moments that probably should be amber, but why spoil such a divine page by dwelling on them? Today in

1327, Petrarch, the other god of mediaeval Italian poetry, met Laura de Neves, for whom he would write 366 poems, so that there would be one for her on each day of the year... and see January 16.

1830, Joseph Smith founded the Mormon Church, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as it ungrammatically prefers (I am not qualified to comment on its theological correctness, or otherwise). In Fayette, New York, apparently.

1896, the first modern Olympic games was formally opened, in Athens, obviously. Apparently some man became the first one ever to win the egg-and-spoon 100 metre hop-skip-and-jump, while wearing green socks, when it was raining, on a Thursday, but he wasn't English, so frankly who cares?

1909, Admiral Robert Edwin Peary - click here - reached the North Pole (good to see that finally acknowledged on an American website!)

1945, birth of Bob Marley, of The Wailers, or the Church of Rastafari of Latter-Day Musical Geniuses, crucified by cancer at the ridiculously young age of 36. Click here for the true path to Redemption

I guess there are many definitions of the word "divine".

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