The main topic of discussion these days is the solar eclipse, probably because we are in that blue stripe on the weather map that indicates the area of total blackout. We have been aware of this since at least the beginning of the year and attending public lectures about what an eclipse is, i.e. the moon passing between the earth and the sun so that it blocks out the light, partially for most, completely for a lucky few on the path between Oregon and South Carolina.
They say that it is called the American Eclipse because the U.S. is the only place this particular eclipse will be seen in totality. I thought it would surely pass over Africa or Australia too, which shows how much I knew about heavenly phenomena.
We were warned about not looking at the sun directly less our eyes get burned out, not to take pictures, or our camera or iPhone will be damaged permanently. “If you want to take pictures, you need to buy a special lens for your camera,” we were warned. We purchased viewing glasses months ago, “in case they run out.”
Fill up your gas tank and buy bread and milk.” The signs on the Interstates that usually announce traffic jams or accidents blocking traffic, now display flashing warnings about heavy traffic on Monday. Some predict a solar-mageddon.
The disaster, however, could be that the rest of the U.S. is trying to squeeze into the narrow 70 mile wide band where the sun will be blacked out. It seemed like a good thing at first to be in the right place. We delayed the start of our vacation to stay at home.
The tourists are already coming. LP Field is sold out to eclipse chasers. Universities all over the south are sending bus loads of students from other schools to MTSU as it is the closest university with an astronomy department and is designated an official viewing site by NASA.
Other places, such as National Parks and Battlefields, will provide viewing space, but some plan to close when parking lots are full. Sort of reminds me of Disney World. There is advice about the best places to be for the best view. Entrepreneurs are charging premium prices for prime viewing spots so people can pay to see something that is free.
We are told to expect a profound terrestrial experience unlike anything we have ever known. The temperature will drop 10 degrees and the stars can be seen. The sun shining through the leaves of trees will provide dancing shadows of the eclipse. It will be a life-changing experience. All of this seems a bit too philosophical to my way of thinking.
Since ancient times, people have feared this event, thinking it is a sign that the gods are angry with us or is a dark prediction of things to come. In China they thought the sun was being eaten by a dragon. Even in our enlightened times, there are those that try to give the eclipse spiritual significance rather than seeing it as simply a scientific event.
School kids have already been educated about the sun show and provided protective glasses. Working people hope to take a break to see at least part of it. I guess the eclipse chasers can fight it out with each other. My plans are to stay home, grill burgers and watch the eclipse from my backyard.
The best advice I’ve heard is to relax and enjoy the experience rather than looking at it through the lens of a cell phone. I’ll let you know what happens — unless the world ends, that is.
Copyright 2017 Sheila Moss