Sun Moon Earth
The History of Solar Eclipses from Omens of Doom to Einstein and Exoplanets
With beautiful illustrations and a detailed map, Sun Moon Earth has everything you need to get ready for the next solar eclipse.
On April 8, 2024, millions of Americans will experience an awe-inspiring phenomenon: a total eclipse of the sun. In Sun Moon Earth, astronomer Tyler Nordgren illustrates how this most seemingly unnatural of natural phenomena was transformed from a fearsome omen to a tourist attraction. From the astrologers of ancient China and Babylon to the high priests of the Maya, Sun Moon Earth takes us around the world to show how different cultures interpreted these dramatic events. Greek philosophers discovered eclipses' cause and used them to measure their world and the cosmos beyond. Victorian-era scientists mounted eclipse expeditions during the age of globe-spanning empires. And modern-day physicists continue to use eclipses to confirm Einstein's theory of relativity.
Beautifully illustrated and lyrically written, Sun Moon Earth is the ideal guide for all eclipse watchers and star gazers alike.
Nordgren, an astronomer and associate professor of physics at the University of Redlands, lyrically relates the long, fascinating history of the human relationship with eclipses. He begins with examples of how premodern cultures understood and predicted eclipses of the Sun and Moon, pointing out that both the Mayans and the Chaldeans had charts to aid in prediction. Lunar eclipses also helped confirm that the Earth was round and were used to approximate the size of the Earth and the distance to the Sun and Moon. Nordgren sprinkles his history and scientific explanations with delightful comments and personal anecdotes that highlight his joy in his work. He pays special attention to Arthur Eddington's 1919 experiment using an eclipse to prove Einstein's special theory of relativity. Relating a humorous account of the 19th-century "discovery" of the hypothesized planet Vulcan, Nordgren shows how when Eddington proved Einstein correct, Vulcan vanished. That particular eclipse led to profound changes in science, language, and worldview. Nordgren also devotes a chapter to the recent hobby of eclipse chasing, in which he eagerly participates. As Nordgren prepares readers to experience their next eclipses, he presents his material clearly and treats the past with respect. Illus.