Researchers looked at historical records dating back to the 4th century to find total solar eclipses.
Records of observed eclipses dating back nearly 1,500 years have revealed the history of Earth’s rotation and how our planet’s motion has changed in recent human history.
An article about the result was published in the journal Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.
Researchers studied the records of the Byzantine Empire, the eastern part of the Roman Empire that existed after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. – and identified five total solar eclipses observed in the eastern Mediterranean, indicating their likely times and locations. Early reports of solar eclipses from this time onwards were scarce.
Because eclipses can provide information about Earth’s motion, such records are important tools for understanding the variation of Earth’s rotation throughout history. According to scientists, our ancestors recorded astronomical events without paying attention to important information that today’s astronomers need, so it is often difficult to determine the correct time, place and duration of historical eclipses.
“Although the original eyewitness accounts of this period are mostly lost, quotations, translations, etc., recorded by later generations contain valuable information. “In addition to reliable location and time information, we need confirmation of a total eclipse – the darkness of the day to where the stars appear in the sky,” said Koji Murata, associate professor at the University of Tsukuba in Japan.
The team identified five total solar eclipses recorded in the eastern Mediterranean region in the years 346, 418, 484, 601 and 693. As an example of the impact of this new study, an eclipse was recorded on July 19, 418, when the sky was so total that the stars were visible. The location of this solar eclipse was Constantinople, then the capital of the Roman Empire, and now Istanbul in modern Turkey.
The earlier delta-T model (ΔT is the length of an Earth day) of Constantinople suggested that for this particular eclipse, the Moon would be outside the path of totality, the region where observers see the Sun completely blocking it. So this ancient description of the total eclipse means that the fifth century ΔT must be adjusted. Other recently discovered accounts require adjustments to ΔT models in later centuries.
“Our new ΔT data fill an important gap and indicate that the ΔT stock in the 5th century should be revised upward, while those in the 6th and 7th centuries should be revised downward,” Murata said.
Updated details of Earth’s rotation will help scientists investigate other global phenomena throughout history, including changes in sea level and the amount of ice on the planet.
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