Lunar Eclipses of Historical Interest

Fred Espenak

Both the popular and technical literature contain many references to lunar eclipses of the past. Some of these references are from ancient texts. In other cases, they are attempts to tie an eclipse with a historical event. The purpose of this web page is to present eclipse calculations for many such eclipses mentioned in the literature.

The inclusion of an historical event in the tables below does not imply validation of the historical event nor its connection with an eclipse. Some events may be either apocryphal or fictional, or an eclipse may be incorrectly associated with a particular event. The eclipse maps and calculations are simply presented so that they may be compared with references in the literature. It is left to the reader to evaluate whether the eclipse association is valid or not.

The following two tables list lunar eclipses identified with some historical event of note. When selected, each Calendar Date links to a diagram showing the Moon's path though Earth's shadows along with the Universal Times of each phase of the eclipse. Below the path doagram is a world map showing the region of visibility for each phase of the eclipse. These figures are described in greater detail in the Key to Lunar Eclipse Maps. Each figure is stored as a PDF file.

Sources and/or literary references to many of these eclipses may be found at:

Ancient and Early Medieval Eclipses in European Sources
Eclipse Quotations

The references at the bottom of this page are also recommended for information on lunar eclipses of historical interest. Those who are unfamiliar with the basic astronomy of lunar eclipses may want to visit Lunar Eclipses for Beginners. A complementary web page Solar Eclipses of Historical Interest is also available.

This web site is a work in progress. If you know of an historic eclipse of interest, please email the date and a little information or reference about the event to I will generate a map for the eclipse and add it to this page.

Lunar Eclipses: 2000 BCE to 1 BCE[3]
Calender DateEclipse
-0746 Feb 06
( 747 Feb 06 BCE)
Partial 31 0.920 03h25m Babylonian Eclipse Note
-0424 Oct 09
( 425 Oct 09 BCE)
Total 49 1.405 03h40m
The choice of Cleon
"... the moon deserted her course and the sun at once veiled his beam threatening, no longer to give you light, if Cleon became general." from Aristophanes, The Clouds Wikipedia
-0412 Aug 28
( 413 Aug 28 BCE)
Total 60 1.080 03h22m
Siege of Syracuse Note Article Wikipedia
-0405 Apr 15
( 406 Apr 15 BCE)
Total 54 1.268 03h24m
Fire in the temple of Athena Note
-0330 Sep 20
( 331 Sep 20 BCE)
Total 51 1.210 03h17m
Eclipse before Arbela battle of Alexander the Great
"But about the first watch the Moon in eclipse, hid at first the brilliance of her heavenly body, then all her light was sullied and suffused with the hue of blood." from History of Alexander Wikipedia
-0167 Jun 21
( 168 Jun 21 BCE)
Total 56 1.252 03h41m
Gallus explains lunar eclipse before the battle
"When there was an eclipse of the moon in the time of Perseus of Macedonia, the report gained popular credence that it portented the eclipse of the king." from Polibius, The Histories Wikipedia
-0128 Nov 05
( 129 Nov 05 BCE)
Partial 53 0.620 02h51m Death of Carneades Note Wikipedia
-0004 Mar 23
( 5 Mar 23 BCE)
Total 61 1.808 03h42m
Death of Herod
"As for the other Matthias who had stirred up the sedition, he (Herod) had him burned alive along with some of his companions. And on that same night there was an eclipse of the Moon. But Herod's illness became more and more severe. . . ." from Flavius Josephus Wikipedia
Lunar Eclipses: 1 CE to 2000 CE[3]
Calender DateEclipse
0014 Sep 27 Total 66 1.665 03h36m
Death of Augustus Note
0033 Apr 03 Partial 71 0.576 02h50m Crucifixion of Christ? See References
0071 Mar 04 Partial 53 0.407 02h19m Pliny - Two Eclipses in 15 Days
"For the eclipse of both sun and moon within 15 days of each other has occured even in our time, in the year of the third consulship of the elder Emperor Vespasian and the second consulship of the younger." from Pliny, "Natural History"
0734 Jan 24 Total 84 1.584 03h37m
Eclipses of Tatwine and Beda
"the Moon was as if it had been sprinkled with blood, and Archbishop Tatwine and Beda died and Ecgberht was hallowed bishop." from The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
0828 Jul 01 Total 91 1.802 03h32m
European Eclipses
"In this year the Moon was eclipsed on mid-winter's Mass-night, and the same year King Ecgbryght subdued the kingdom of the Mercians and all that was South of the Humber." from The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
0828 Dec 25 Total 96 1.026 03h30m
European Eclipses
"In this year the Moon was eclipsed on mid-winter's Mass-night, and the same year King Ecgbryght subdued the kingdom of the Mercians and all that was South of the Humber." from The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
1349 Jul 01 Total 109 1.822 03h33m
A Witch's Eclipse Note
1433 Jul 02 Partial 120 0.511 02h42m Two Eclipses in 15 Days Note
1453 May 22 Partial 102 0.745 02h58m Fall of Constantinople Wikipedia
1457 Sep 03 Total 109 1.253 03h19m
Time Error Eclipse Note
1504 Mar 01 Total 105 1.096 03h26m
Columbus' Eclipse Note Article Wikipedia
1573 Dec 08 Total 118 1.560 03h33m
Brahe's Eclipse Note
1776 Jul 31 Total 125 1.591 03h32m
James Cook's Lunar Eclipse - 1 Wikipedia
1777 Jan 23 Partial 130 0.594 02h48m James Cook's Lunar Eclipse - 2
1777 Jul 20 Partial 135 0.109 01h16m James Cook's Lunar Eclipse - 3
1778 Dec 04 Partial 112 0.505 02h24m James Cook's Lunar Eclipse - 4
1805 Jan 15 Total 121 1.742 03h33m
The Lewis and Clark Eclipse Wikipedia
1863 Nov 25 Partial 133 0.952 03h20m Gordon's Eclipse
1917 Jul 04 Total 128 1.618 03h33m
Lawrence of Arabia's Eclipse
"By my diary there was an eclipse. Duly it came, and the Arabs forced the post without loss, while the superstitious soldiers were firing rifles and clanging copper pots to rescue the threatened satellite." from Thomas Edward Lawrence Wikipedia
2001 Jan 09 Total 134 1.189 03h16m
First Total Lunar Eclipse
of the 3rd Millennium (see: NASA Page)


[1] Umbral magnitude is the fraction of the Moon's diameter obscured by Earth's Umbra. For partial eclipses, the umbral magnitude is always greater than 0 and less than 1. For total eclipses, the umbral magnitude is always greater than or equal to 1.

[2] Eclipse Duration is the duration of the partial eclipse. Total eclipses have a partial phase both before and after the total phase. Thus, two eclipse durations are listed for total eclipses. The first duration is for the entire eclipse (partial and total phases combined) and the second duration (in '[ ]') is for the total phase only.

[3] BCE and CE are abbreviations for "Before Common Era" and "Common Era," respectively. They are the secular equivalents to the BC and AD dating conventions. (See:Year Dating Conventions)


-0746 Feb 02 - Babylonian Eclipse

-0412 Aug 28 - Siege of Syracuse

-0405 Apr 15 - Fire in the temple of Athena

-0128 Nov 05 - Death of Carneades

0014 Sep 27 - Death of Augustus

1349 Jul 01 - A Witch's Eclipse

1433 Jul 02 - Two Eclipses in 15 Days

1457 Sep 03 - Time Error Eclipse

1504 Mar 01 - Columbus' Eclipse

1573 Dec 08 - Brahe's Eclipse

References for Lunar Eclipses of Historical Interest

Brewer, B., Eclipse, Earth View, Seattle, 1991

Humphreys, Colin J. and Waddington, W. G., "Dating the Crucifixion", Nature, Vol. 306, No. 5945, p.743-746, 22 December 1983

Littmann, M., Espenak, F., and Willcox, K. Totality - Eclipses of the Sun (3rd Ed.), Oxford University Press, New York, 2008.

Schaefer, Bradley E., "Solar Eclipses That Changed the World", Sky and Telescope, May, 1994, p.36-39

Schaefer, Bradley E., "Lunar Eclipses That Changed the World", Sky and Telescope, December, 1992, p.639-642

Schaefer, Bradley E., "Dating the Crucifixion", Sky and Telescope, April, 1989, p.374

Schaefer, Bradley E., "Lunar Visibility and the Crucifixion", Q.Jl. R. astr. Soc., 1990, 31, p.53-67

Steel, Duncan, Eclipse: The Celestial Phenomenon That Changed the Course of History (Washington, D.C.: The Joseph Henry Press, 2001)


Lunar eclipse predictions must take into account the enlargement of Earth's shadows. In this Catalog, Earth's penumbral and umbral shadow sizes have been calculated using Danjon's enlargement method.

The coordinates of the Sun used in the predictions are based on the VSOP87 theory [Bretagnon and Francou, 1988]. The Moon's coordinates are based on the ELP-2000/82 theory [Chapront-Touze and Chapront, 1983]. For more information, see: Solar and Lunar Ephemerides. The revised value used for the Moon's secular acceleration is n-dot = -25.858 arc-sec/cy*cy, as deduced from the Apollo lunar laser ranging experiment (Chapront, Chapront-Touze, and Francou, 2002).

The largest uncertainty in the eclipse predictions is caused by fluctuations in Earth's rotation due primarily to tidal friction of the Moon. The resultant drift in apparent clock time is expressed as ΔT and is determined as follows:

  1. pre-1950's: ΔT calculated from empirical fits to historical records derived by Morrison and Stephenson (2004)
  2. 1955-2006: ΔT obtained from published observations
  3. Post-2006: ΔT is extrapolated from current values weighted by the long term trend from tidal effects

A series of polynomial expressions have been derived to simplify the evaluation of ΔT for any time from -1999 to +3000. The uncertainty in ΔT over this period can be estimated from scatter in the measurements.


The data presented here are based on predictions published in:

Five Millennium Canon of Lunar Eclipses: -1999 to +3000 (NASA TP-2009-214172)
Five Millennium Catalog of Lunar Eclipses: -1999 to +3000 (NASA TP-2009-214173)

Special thanks to National Space Club summer intern Wesley Ripley for his assistance in updating and expanding this web page (July 2008).

Permission is freely granted to reproduce this data when accompanied by an acknowledgment:

"Eclipse Predictions by Fred Espenak, NASA's GSFC"

Return to: NASA Lunar Eclipse Page

2009 Jun 13