By carefully noting local lunar and solar eclipses, Babylonian astronomers were able to predict lunar eclipses and later, solar eclipses, with a fair accuracy.
Their tool was the so-called Saros-cycle: this is the period of 223 synodic months (or 18 years and 11.3 days) after which lunar and solar eclipses repeat themselves.
More Recent Accounts come to us, as well, through numerous writings about eclipses through the ages.
The British poet John Milton writes in Paradise Lost;"As when the Sun, new risen, Looks through the horizontal misty air, Shorn of his beams, or from behind the Moon, In dim eclipse, disastrous twilight sheds On half the nations and with fear of change Perplexes monarchs."Solar eclipses were by all accounts events of wondrous and magical proportions.
In 1999, Irish Archeoastronomer Paul Griffin investigated the Loughcrew Cairn L Megalithic Monument in Ireland, and discovered that a set of spiral-shaped petroglyphs that might correspond to a solar eclipse which occurred on November30, 3340 BCE.
The symbols display a consistent coding of the sun, moon and horizon, and of the 92 tracks of total solar eclipses, only the one for 3340 BCE visible at this site displayed the same geometric relationships.
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It was a tradition in ancient China to bang drums and pots and make loud noise during eclipses to frighten the dragon away. Babylonian Clay Tablets such as the one below, provide physical records of ancient eclipses viewed by humans, in this instance between 518 and 465 BCE.
He also knew that the sun must be within 20 degrees 41' of the node point for an eclipse to occur.
From this information, Ptolemy figured that up to two solar eclipses could occur within seven months in the same part of the world.
The famous Greek astronomer, Ptolemy (ca 150 CE) recorded his observations of eclipses in the Almagest and showed he had a sophisticated scheme for predicting both lunar and solar eclipses.
Ptolemy knew, for example, the details of the orbit of the Moon including its nodal points.