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For example, consider the eclipses of two Saros series: July91945,July20 1963,July311981,August 111999, August 212017; and May 29 1919, June 8 1937, June 20 1955, June 30 1973, July 11 1991, July 222009 and so on. The relationship is very marked, and there are many Saros series running at the same time. The first eclipse of any particular cycle begins as a partial, near one or other of the Earth's poles; successive eclipses reach lower and lower latitudes and in most cases become total; then, near the end of the cycle, there are final partial eclipses near the Earth's opposite pole.

Things can, and do, go wrong in real life. There is an alternative to solar projection which could be regarded as a "fudge" for a proper filter. This is reflection. A very small proportion of light is reflected from unsilvered glass, and this has been used quite successfully in some forms of prominence telescopes. Reflections from two surfaces are usually sufficient to reduce the heat energy to acceptable levels, as the bulk passes straight through the glass into the wide yonder. If the rest of the optics are of a high focal ratio, in specially The Sun in Eclipse designed equipment, the heat hazard can be reduced to manageable proportions.

At least we are fairly sure of Thales' own dates - he lived from around BC 624 to 547 - and the eclipse certainly happened; according to legend it interrupted a battle between the forces of King Alyattes of the Lydians and King Cyaxares of the Medes who were so alarmed that they called a hasty truce. But could Thales, wise man though he undoubtedly was, have predicted the eclipse at all? He did not know the cause; he believed that the Earth was flat, and floated on a vast ocean. If he really did make the predication, there is only one way in which he could have done so: by using the Saros.

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Compact stars by Glendenning


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