Science: Eclipses of 1940

Where were Hsi and Ho? Where were the court astronomers? On this day in ancient China, some two millenniums before Christ, a monster was seen devouring the sun. While people rushed about madly and beat drums to scare off the celestial demon, Court Astronomers Hsi and Ho were found drunk. To punish them for being "sunk in wine and excess" instead of tending to business on a dire occasion, they had their heads cut off.

Astronomers no longer get either drunk or decapitated during eclipses. Now they have a healthy interest—especially in total eclipses of the sun, for during the fleeting moments...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!