How is a solar eclipse predicted

2,600 years agoFirst predicted solar eclipse occurs

"There was war between the Lydians and Medes for five years, during which the Lydians were often defeated by the Medes, but also the Medes by the Lydians."

The Greek historian Herodotus reports in his "Histories" of a never-ending armed conflict in Asia Minor. Then, on May 28, 585 BC, the messed up situation began to move.

"As they continued the war equally on both sides, it happened at a meeting in the sixth year that, with the outbreak of battle, day suddenly turned into night. Thales of Miletus also predicted this change of day for the Ionians Predicting the same year in which the change actually took place. "

Warriors were surprised by the spectacle of nature

The sun darkened over the tumult of the battle - what, says Herodotus, the then 40-year-old mathematician and philosopher Thales von Miletus, who had calculated in advance. The moon moved in front of the blazing bright sun and covered it for a good three and a half minutes. The bright day suddenly turned into dark night: In the sky there was no more bright sunlight to be seen, only the glow of the brightest stars and planets. The warring parties were certainly not aware of the valley's prognosis - and so the fighters were completely surprised by the natural spectacle.

"When the Lydians and the Medes saw night take the place of day, they not only gave up the battle, but also drove them all the more to a peace treaty on both sides."

The solar eclipse of the Valley of Miletus made world politics - at least that's what legend says. But the British astronomer John Mason, one of the most experienced eclipse observers in the world, thinks so much awe of nature is more than understandable.

Heavenly sign to the warring parties

"It may seem strange to many people these days that a natural event should have had such an effect. But I've seen a lot of solar eclipses myself and repeatedly experienced what they did to the people around me. Such a spectacle is absolutely overwhelming . Suddenly it gets dark for a few minutes - and then luckily the light comes again. You can immediately feel that something is happening that is much bigger and more important than the little problems we have on our planet. "

The solar eclipse did not lead to a peace agreement within minutes. But the warring parties knew how to interpret the heavenly sign and were only too happy to end the long conflict. Herodotus attributes the prediction of this eclipse to Thales of Miletus, but the historian lived a good century after the dramatic events and he may not have known much about the astronomical knowledge of other cultures, warns John Mason:

"There are reports from ancient China, according to which scholars were able to predict solar and lunar eclipses even back then. We also believe that the Babylonians - without any calculators or computers - recognized that eclipses exist inside one repeat a good eighteen-year cycle. You might well have calculated such events before Thales. I suspect we will never know for sure what the first eclipse predicted was. "

It is undisputed that on May 28, 585 BC, the moon's shadow once moved across what is now Turkey. It is also clear that the milestone anniversary is not to be celebrated until this year, even if some very eager people cheered last year. But our calendar does not have a year zero - when the year counting from the birth of Christ was introduced in the 6th century by the monk Dionysius Exiguus, zero was still unknown. The historical year 585 BC therefore corresponds to the mathematical year minus 584. Thus, the peacemaking total solar eclipse of the valley of Milet only occurred 2600 years ago.