After a 99-year absence, one of the greatest shows on Earth crosses the United States on Aug. 21: a Total Solar Eclipse.
Earthlings may be living on the only planet in the cosmos that can see the phenomenon of the sun’s disappearance. Our moon is both 400 times smaller and closer than the sun, so they appear to be the same size. This optical illusion lets the moon appear to put out the light of the sun in the sky, while on Earth, the moon’s shadow turns day into night.
The shock of the sun’s sudden disappearance put fear into ancient people. As early as 2500 BCE, Babylonian mathematicians figured out how to predict eclipses, but the media of the time was slow in spreading the word. World mythologies attributed eclipses to ordinary or mythical creatures swallowing the sun.
This eclipse, born in the Pacific Ocean, makes land fall near Lincoln City, Oregon, crosses the entire USA and dies out in the Atlantic after leaving Charleston, South Carolina. Within a 67-mile-wide band, the moon shadow races across the land at 2,900 mph through Oregon, creating an eerie twilight for the 2 minutes and 19 seconds of local totality. Temperatures drop 5 to 10 degrees. Animals revert to night behaviors: birds roost and insects quieten. Stars and four planets — Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter — will twinkle in the dark, daytime sky.
This eclipse will attract an influx of tourists to the path of totality; hotels, homes, campsites and RV parks are booked. Small towns, like Madras, Oregon, population 6,000, expect to host up to 100,000 visitors, pushing their capacity to provide gas, water, ice, food, medical care and other services beyond their limits.
If you plan on traveling into the 67-mile-wide viewing zone, fill your gas tanks and load up your coolers with more food, water and ice than you think you’ll need and enough to share. Many roads into peak viewing areas are only two lanes, so expect heavy, slow traffic. Be patient and be prepared, but go! This is a rare, bucket-list quality experience.
Two minutes and nineteen seconds of quiet and mystery. To consider our tiny self on this little planet in the immensity of the universe and laugh. What a gift! Life! Me. Here. Now.
As the sun reappears, we can return to life as usual or make new choices. We could drop our masks and revel in the brilliance of ourselves and others. We could rediscover life as play. We could trust that who we are in the simplest way is quite enough, thank you very much.
In other words, we could simply shine, like the sun.
On the world level, concerns about “shooting the messenger” might have had Babylonian astrologers drawing straws to see who would deliver predictions around this eclipse to the king, chief, or, dare we say, president.
Planets continue to activate eclipse points after the event. The first planet up: Mars, the Warrior, in Leo, a fire sign. (Woohoo. Fireworks.) Mercury retrograde in bombastic Leo trips across the eclipse degree two times in the following month. (Foot-in-mouth issues and not knowing when to shut up. Oh, my!) The emotional moon crosses the point in late September. At the three-month point, the all powerful Sun stresses the eclipse point. Six months from the event, new eclipses occur, supporting or shifting the TSE’s potential.
Eclipses mark a particular moment with the story unfolding over time. They merely bring energy to countries and people. It can be used in a myriad of ways. As we make our choice, remember the moon’s reminder of our soul’s yearning. Our greatest work is living true to our golden heart — where love shines like the sun.
To learn more, go to:
www.eclipse2017.org/eclipse2017_main.htm or https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/eclipse-maps.