Eclipse News

2017 Total Solar Eclipse: What’s The Big Deal?

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A fair question.  Who among us has not been underwhelmed by an overhyped astronomical “event”?  Perhaps it was one of the “comets of the century”, with really long names you couldn’t pronounce, that wander our way every few years but fizzle out or get ripped to shreds by a close encounter with our star.  It might have been a meteor “shower” that resulted in more mosquito bites (or frozen toes) than brilliant streaks of space debris burning up in our atmosphere at ludicrous speed.  A less than super “supermoon” perhaps.  Of course such events are also subject to an overabundance of man-made light, being really tired, or the ever present threat of the c word……..clouds.

On Monday, August 21st you will not be let down, unless the c word crashes your party.

Hyperdrive

Prepare for the onslaught of hype fueled by media – print, electronic, social – that will confront us as we stumble along toward the Big Day.  Here is a preview:  once in a lifetime, greatest show on earth / in sky, gaze with wonder, astronomical event of the century / millennium, awe inspiring, like nothing you have ever seen, etc.  There will also be no shortage of adjectives:  spectacular, breathtaking, magnificent, transcendent, astonishing, grandiose, unrivalled, majestic, sublime, etc.  By mid-July the frenzy will be at fever pitch.

I make no claim (nor does Odie) to being an expert on total solar eclipses.  I do not hold advanced degrees in astrophysics or celestial mechanics.  I am not an eclipse chaser, tracking them down wherever and whenever they occur, although I certainly would be one if I had the means. In fact, a passion for astronomy and astrophotography is our only cred.  Well, that and I have experienced one total solar eclipse.

The crazy thing is every bit of the hype applies to what you will experience under the black hole sun.  And then some.

 

What A Long Strange Trip Its Been

On February 25th, 1979 six freshmen from the University of Colorado piled into Jim’s van and headed north to intersect the path of the last total solar eclipse to cross our shores.  Our general target was Williston, North Dakota, which we somehow found.  If you are in need of a visual, here’s one:

 

 

We gathered with strangers from all over the country, from all over the world, our cars lining both sides of a gravel road as far as the eye could see.  We stood to witness the world transformed around us and gazed at the moon’s umbral shadow appearing as a dot on the horizon then instantaneously blanketing us in totality.  All fell silent in the mid-day twilight and looked up at the invisible corona of the sun now revealed, accompanied by stars and planets standing their post.

After the shadow passed and our familiar world slowly returned, everyone on that road had a look on their faces best described as stunned.  To a person, each understood this was something they would never forget.

I often think back to The Event and the overwhelming sense of connection to my universe, one that has yet to be equaled.  I struggle with the yin and yang of it all, trying to reconcile my emotional experience with the rationale side of my head, which tells me this is a (seemingly) simple alignment of sun, moon and earth and Da Cosmic Mojo was workin’.  I finally came to understand what this ancient Chinese philosophy was telling me.  A balance had been established, one could not exist without the other.  Without the light, there is no shadow.

The ironic proximity of Devil’s Tower in Wyoming to our gravel road north of Williston, North Dakota was not lost on me.  In Close Encounters of the Third Kind Spielburg brought together strangers with a common vision to experience something rare and mysterious.  Sounds vaguely familiar.

For my contribution to the coming flood of hype, I leave it to Freddie and the boys.

GUARANTEED TO BLOW YOUR MIND!

 

Eclipse photography copyright and courtesy of F. Espenak.  See all of Fred’s incredible eclipse photos at MrEclipse.com.

 

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