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Solar eclipse at the ruins of Chichén Itzá. | Bjorn Holland/Getty Images
Astronomy

Seeker's Visual Guide to Solar Eclipses Throughout History

Ancient monuments, clay tablets, paintings, and photographs reveal the power that solar eclipses have had on the imaginations of prehistoric and modern civilizations.

Partial solar eclipse visible through rocks that form the monument Stonehenge in Wiltshire, Southwest England. | Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images
People use protective glasses to catch a glimpse of a solar eclipse in front of the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx on March 20, 2015, in Giza, Egypt. | Mohamed Hossam/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Babylonian clay tablet that records eclipses between 518 and 465 BC. | NASA
Solar eclipse at the ruins of Chichén Itzá. | Bjorn Holland/Getty Images
Painting entitled "Dionysius the Areopagite Converting the Pagan Philosophers," 1570s. | J. Paul Getty Museum/Wikimedia Commons
17th-century celestial map by the Dutch cartographer Frederik de Wit. | Wikimedia Commons
Chateau de Ferney, home and birthplace of Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire, a French writer, philosopher, playwright, and poet 91694–1778). In the foreground, figures are observing a solar eclipse. Engraving by Godefroy after a painting by Lantara. | Culture Club/Getty Images
Title page of “An Astronomical Diary or, Almanack for the Christian Era, 1777” by Nathanial Low. It mentions the solar eclipse that occurred on January 9 of that year. | US Library of Congress
Print showing Chinese astronomers observing and measuring an eclipse of the sun using a telescope and other instruments. Titled “The ceremonies observed in every province and city of China on the occasion of an eclipse,” the lithograph was produced J.W. Giles from a painting by Poshang that was published by Dean and Co, London. By tradition, solar eclipses were explained in China as being caused by a dragon swallowing the sun. This beast was invariably chased away by making as much noise as possible. | SSPL/Getty Images
The first known photograph of a solar eclipse, taken on July 28, 1851, by daguerreotypist J. Berkowski. | Wikimedia Commons
Photograph of the January 1, 1889 solar eclipse taken by an expedition of the Washington University in St. Louis. The images comprising the composite photo were taken from Norman, California. | Wikimedia Commons
Astronomers observe the solar eclipse on January 1, 1907 from the Cherniaevo Station in the Tian-Shan mountains above the Saliuktin mines of the Golodnaia Steppe in Russian Turkestan, an area that is now mainly in Uzbekistan. | Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, Library of Congress.
Illustration of a solar eclipse as seen from the moon or another planet. The sun is haloed in a dark sky. The foreground is a rocky, barren canyon. Illustration signed, W. Kranz. | Bettmann/Getty Images
A crowd in France at the Place de la Bastille looks at a solar eclipse in 1912. | Eugène Atget/Wikimedia Commons
“Diamond ring” of the solar eclipse, January 24, 1925. | Frederick Goetz/Library of Congress
Oil painting “Solar Eclipse,” located on the second-floor rotunda ceiling of the US Custom House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. | Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images
Total solar eclipse photographed in France in 1999. | Luc Viatour/Wikimedia Commons
Projected path of the August 21, 2017, total solar eclipse across the US. | Wolfgang Strickling/Wikimedia Commons