AAS 197, January 2001
Session 23. HAD II
Special Session Oral, Monday, January 8, 2001, 10:30am-12:00noon, Royal Palm 5/6

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[23.01] Eclipses and the Olympics

K. D. Pang (La Canada, CA), K. K. Yau (JPL)

Like returns of Halley's comet the Olympic games occur periodically, though not as regularly in antiquity. Dates were also imprecise due to the chaotic calendars in use. Reported sightings of comets and eclipses can be used with game dates to help fix ancient events. However some reported darkening of the sun, e.g., after Julius Caesar's murder in 44 BC, was due to volcanic eruptions. A red comet, visible in daylight, first appeared during the games that year. It was also seen from China and Korea (Pang, Sciences 31, 30).

Phlegon's ``Olympiads" (2nd century) says that Christ's crucifixion was in the 4th year of the 202nd Olympiad (AD 29-33), when a total solar eclipse occurred in the 6th hour. Only the Nov. 24, AD 29 eclipse over Asia Minor can match that, and Joel's prophecy (Acts 2, 14-21) that ``the sun will be turned to darkness and moon to blood." However it conflicts with ``the first day of Passover," as recorded by Mathew, Mark and Luke, i.e., full moon in early spring. Humphreys and Waddington (Nature 306, 743) have suggested meteorological darkening and the April 3, AD 33 lunar eclipse instead.

Schaefer has questioned the eclipse's visibility from Jerusalem (31.46N, 35.14E). The six computations he cited gave dissimilar answers due to the imprecise rates of the secular lunar acceleration, and lengthening of the day used (Q.Jl.R.astr.Soc. 31, 53). Lunar laser ranging has since fixed the former at -26"/cen2. Analysis of ancient Chinese solar eclipse records, e.g., the April 21, 899 BC and April 4, AD 368 ``double dawns" over Zheng, has given us a delta T (in sec) = 30t2, where t is centuries before 1800 (Pang, Yau and Chou, in ``Dynamics of Ice Age Earth: A Modern Perspective," 1998). Our computations show that the moon rose over Jerusalem, with 1/3 still in the umbra and the rest in penumbra. Holdover meteorological darkening with long absorption air mass could have help reddened the moon also.

Finally the first ``eclipse season" (the Aug. 21 lunar, and Sept. 6 solar, eclipses) were recorded in China in 776 BC, the year of the first Olympiad. A total solar eclipse (August 1, 2008) will occur during the 29th modern Olympiad (July 25-Aug. 10), with its path of totality ending in a spectacular ``double sunset" over Zheng, China (34.5N, 110E).

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: KevinDPang@aol.com

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