The LFI Blog
Eclipsy: What to Make of a Rare Event
No. 28 - Aug 29, 2017
We all got a little eclipsy on that special day the moon decided to block out the sun. We drank the astro kool-aid. Could you blame us?
Funny that it was on a Monday morning, smack in the middle of the work day.
Last week, many Americans traveled to see the first total solar eclipse to cross the entire continental United States since 1918. Small towns no one had ever heard of from Oregon to South Carolina attracted lines of cars ready to witness the big rock that controls our tides block out the even bigger star that gives us life.
The morning of the eclipse there was a buzz in the air. The shadow made its way from west to east, like a reversed New Year’s Eve celebration. The nation came together as if it was Super Bowl Sunday. However, this time we weren’t enjoying the grand event through our televisions. We were able to go outside and stare directly up at the cosmos to see it. Finally, a chance to experience something without a screen between us (just eclipse glasses).
My plans for the celestial event changed three times. Originally, my wife and I were going to drive four hours up to Wyoming to catch the totality with friends. When they had to cancel due to work obligations, the plan quickly turned into watching it at our house just the two of us. When my wife couldn’t get out of work herself, the plan shifted again. I went to meet her.
The change of plans was frustrating, but I was just happy it was another clear sunny day in the mile high city. Denver would see 92% of the sun blocked out - not quite 100%, but higher than most parts of the country.
Ironically, when I left the house to meet my wife, I underestimated the power of the sun that day. It was hot out and I didn’t have any water or sunscreen. Was sunscreen needed? Were we all about to get sunburnt? Who knew how shaded we’d be.
As I drove over I felt rushed, which made me laugh. I was literally in a rush to be present.
When I finally met up my wife, I didn’t realize the experience had already begun. The moon was covering part of the sun. Who would have known!? Here I was looking to find the moon sitting in the sky right beside the sun like a dummy.
And then the world turned dim for a moment. A cool air breezed through that I described so profoundly as, “a late afternoon in fall”. A calming feeling came over. From a distance it appeared as if doomsday was upon us as everyone looked up at the sky in wonder of what’s to come.
Why was it such a big deal, the only thing we all talked about that one Monday in August? Do we really need to all post the same lousy attempt at a decent photo of the sun? Millions of us documenting that thing that’s in the sky every day, just now it’s hidden.
Talk about wanting what you can't have.
Yet the tiny cynic in me is always trumped by the obnoxious optimist. Sure, I learned the hard way that 92% isn’t 100%, even though it sounds close, and my town didn’t go nice and dark as I hoped for (You just can’t beat 100% of anything), but I realized I was witnessing a pretty cool event with the one I love most, her awesome boss and colleagues, on a medical campus community of hundreds (Who all somehow arranged to not have to work during that hour). What more could I ask for?
No, I didn’t get to see it with my buddy Carlo, which was plan A, but I did run into my other buddy Carlos, and that was a pleasant surprise.
To think of the odds of the moon and earth perfectly lining up with the sun at the same time is surreal, especially since the sun is 400 times bigger than the moon and 400 times farther away from the earth. It gives one a sense of how vast the universe is, a reminder of how connected we are to the earth, and a feeling of alignment with something bigger than ourselves.
It forces us to be present in a world it’s often hard to be present in.
Any experience that connects us to community and the rock of life we live on is a successful experience to me. It’s a connection I wish we appreciated more often.
Astronomers tell us exactly when we can expect the moon to totally block out the sun again in our region. If you’re lucky enough to be in the path of totality for it, savor the moment, because it could be 350 years until your town sees it again.
In 2024, I’ll be looking for that location of totality here in the U.S.
Where will you be?
Header photo credit: @prowaktive