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Eclipse prediction in Mesopotamia.

TitleEclipse prediction in Mesopotamia.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2000
AuthorsSteele, John M.
Journal TitleArchive for History of Exact Sciences
Volume54
Issue5
Pages35
Start Page421
Journal Date02/2000
ISSN Number0003-9519
KeywordsHistory of Astronomy: Lunar Eclipses, History of Astronomy: Planetary Theories, History of Astronomy: Solar Eclipses
Abstract

Among the many celestial phenomena observed in ancient Mesopotamia, eclipses, particularly eclipses of the Moon, were considered to be among the astrologically most significant events. In Babylon, by at least the middle of the seventh century BC, and probably as early as the middle of the eighth century BC, astronomical observations were being systematically conducted and recorded in a group of texts which we have come to call Astronomical Diaries. These Diaries contain many observations and predictions of eclipses. The predictions generally include the expected time of the eclipse, apparently calculated quite precisely. By the last three centuries BC, the Babylonian astronomers had developed highly advanced mathematical theories of the Moon and planets. This paper outlines the various methods which appear to have been formulated by the Mesopotamian astronomers to predict eclipses of the Sun and the Moon. It also considers the question of which of these methods were actually used in compiling the Astronomical Diaries, and speculates why these particular methods were used.

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