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What's the Big Deal about Solar Eclipses?

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August 8 2017

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How rare are total solar eclipses? How have humans reacted to total solar eclipses throughout history? Mr. Beat explains. Want a specific history topic covered? Your idea gets picked when you donate on Patreon: Mr. Beat's band: Mr. Beat on Twitter: Produced by Matt Beat. Music by Matt Beat (Electric Needle Room) Sources used for this video: Almost everyone knows about his first voyage. You know, in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean, dude? Far less people know about his last voyage. He left Spain on what would be his final voyage on May 11, 1502. It didn’t go so well. An epidemic of shipworms, also known as “termites of the sea” (aren’t they cute?) literally ate through his ships. This, combined with other bad luck on the voyage, eventually left Columbus and his crew stranded on an island that is today known as Jamaica. The native peoples there, the Arawak Indians, initially welcomed Columbus and his crew, hooking them up with food and shelter. But as the months went by, the natives began to get tired of helping them, especially when they stole stuff and got rowdy. Because of this, the natives stopped sending them food, so the sailors began to invade the villages and steal it. After being stranded for over six months, about half of Columbus’ crew revolted. Some of them ended up murdering a few Arawaks in order to get food. Columbus knew there would be retaliation, so he came up with a plan. He asked the village chiefs to meet with him on February 26, 1504. He began the discussion by telling the chiefs that God wasn’t happy with how the Arawaks were no longer giving his sailors food. Columbus told them that in three days, God would show how unhappy he was by taking away the moon out of the sky. The chiefs didn’t believe Columbus. Some even laughed at him, completely dismissing him as crazy. And yet, three days later, on February 29, 1504, as the moon rose up in the sky, it began to dim, eventually dimming completely, turning into an amber color. The natives began to freak out and rushed to find Columbus. They begged him to talk to God to bring back the moon and promised to never ever refuse food to his people again. Columbus told them he’d have to talk to God to see if he could reason with him. 48 minutes later, Columbus returned to them to report that God had forgiven them and had decided to return the moon. Sure enough, the moon reappeared, and Columbus had not only just saved his men from starving but he also saved the villagers from future attacks from his men. We now know that they had all just witnessed a total lunar eclipse. How did Columbus know about that lunar eclipse? Like every good sailor, he had a copy of an almanac by the well known astronomer and mathematician, Regiomontanus. That almanac contained astronomical tables from 1475 to 1506, and from that, Columbus was able to predict the total lunar eclipse which would happen on February 29, 1504. The Arawaks kept Columbus and his crew well fed until a relief ship came to pick them up a few months later. They returned to Spain on November 7, 1504. While that might be one of the most well-known lunar eclipses in history, it was still just a lunar eclipse. No offense, lunar eclipses, but you just aren’t nearly as dramatic as solar eclipses. Total solar eclipses are eclipses of the sun in which the moon COMPLETELY hides the solar surface, cutting off direct sunlight to certain areas on the planet. During total solar eclipses, it becomes as dark as night, in the middle of the day. This freaks animals out, and often they are confused as to whether or not they should be sleeping or staying awake. You know who else it used to freak out? Arguably the smartest animals on the planet. Humans!

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