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The illuminating power of eclipses

from The New York Times

Hipparchus, the Greek astronomer and mathematician who lived more than 2,000 years ago, used the solar eclipse to solve a celestial geometry problem. He knew that at a spot in northwestern Turkey an eclipse had totally blocked the sun. But in Alexandria, about 600 miles away, only about four-fifths of the sun had been covered. From that tidbit, he calculated the distance between the Earth and moon to within roughly 20 percent of the correct figure. more


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