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Author: szeiger
No. Questions: 5
Created: Jul 18, 2017
Last Modified: 7 years ago

What Causes a Solar Eclipse?

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When you hear that a solar eclipse is coming or go outside to view a solar eclipse, you have a good idea of what has caused it. Thanks to modern technology, astronomers have been able to get a closer look at the Sun and learn more about how it moves. However, that has not always been the case. While today we know that a solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, ancient cultures had to make up their own explanations to explain why the Sun disappeared from the sky.

Upsetting the Sun
One of the most common myths used to explain a solar eclipse involved up upsetting or getting into a fight with the Sun. Many cultures believed that the Sun was a god or a goddess. Any changes that occurred with the Sun were thought to be a sign of the Sun's displeasure with the people or a fight with another god.

For example, in Inuit culture, the people thought of the Sun as the goddess Malina. The Moon was the god Anningan. One day, Malina got into a fight with Anningan and walked away from him. When Anningan finally caught up with her, a solar eclipse occurred.

In Ancient Greece, the people believed the solar eclipse occurred when the Sun became angry with the people. To show his anger, the sun disappeared from the sky and went down to his home in the underworld.

A Native American myth tells the story of a bear who became angry with the Sun. To show the Sun how angry he was, the bear took a big bite out of the Sun. That bite represented what happened during a partial solar eclipse.

Eating the Sun
Not all stories related to the Sun are the result of fighting and anger. Some myths simply told stories of creatures who tried to eat the Sun. Sometimes the animals ate the Sun out of curiosity, other times they did it because there was nothing else to eat.

For example, Norse cultures tell the tale of Skoll and Hati, two wolves who set out to capture the Sun and Moon so that they could eat them. The disappearance of the Sun during a solar eclipse showed that they were successful.

According to Chinese culture, the word for an eclipse is chih, which means "to eat." To help explain the solar eclipse, ancient Chinese cultures made up a story about a dragon who was hungry and decided to eat the Sun for lunch.

Stealing the Sun
To those who lived in ancient times, the best explanation for why the Sun disappeared from the sky was that it must have been stolen. Numerous myths tell tales of people and other creatures attempting to take the Sun from the sky.

For example, a Korean myth tells the story of a group of people who lived in darkness on a planet far away from Earth. They noticed that the Sun provided light to Earth and decided to steal the source of that light, the Sun, to provide light for their own planet.

Modern Superstitions
Even though scientists now know the cause of a solar eclipse, people still have their own superstitions. In some cultures, people go outside and bang pots and pans during a solar eclipse. They believe that the eclipse is caused by demons and that by banging pans, they can scare the demon away.

Other people believe that a solar eclipse can have negative effects. For example, they believe that a solar eclipse can be dangerous to pregnant women and that food cooked during a solar eclipse is poisonous.

Scientists, however, simply see the solar eclipse as a time when the moon crosses the path of the sun and the moon. The only thing they note is that trying to look directly at the sun during a solar eclipse will cause damage to your eyes, so be sure they're protected before you head outside.
Grade 4 Summarizing
Why did ancient cultures make up stories about the Sun?
  1. to entertain one another
  2. to get children to fall asleep
  3. to help explain its movements
  4. to share the facts they had learned
Grade 4 Summarizing
Many ancient cultures thought of the Sun as a
  1. god.
  2. hero.
  3. animal.
  4. brother.
Grade 4 Making Inferences and Drawing Conclusions
Why don't people make up myths about a solar eclipse today?
  1. They have heard too many myths.
  2. They know why a solar eclipse occurs.
  3. They accept the myths of ancient cultures.
  4. They are less creative than ancient people.
Grade 4 Making Inferences and Drawing Conclusions
Based on the information in the passage, which statement about ancient cultures is true?
  1. They always thought the Sun was female.
  2. They thought the Sun would bring them wealth.
  3. They wanted to develop technology to understand the Sun.
  4. They believed their actions could cause the Sun to change.