skp and I went to a friend's place to watch the solar eclipse tonight. (well, now last night.) I brought along my telescope and she provided the aluminized mylar filter that allows you to look at the sun. It was amazing just seeing the sunspots...but watching the moon block out the light and cast eerie shadows was even better. People from around the neighborhood came out to look through the telescopes, and anyone who happened to be walking by was handed a piece of welder's glass so they could see the eclipse with their own eyes. It's funny that the sun and moon look about the same size when they're crossing paths.
Solar eclipses happen irregularly, so it's not surprising that they were viewed as apocalyptic signs in the past. I like this simple quote about an eclipse in 1275 that was viewed as an omen in retrospect: "The Sun was eclipsed; it was total. Stars were seen. The chickens and ducks all returned to roost. In the following year the Sung dynasty was extinguished." [found at Eclipse Quotations]