Hey, everyone! How’s everyone today?
There’s this solar eclipse lined up for later this year. It’s on the calendars for August 21, the birthday of two (two!) of my friends. In case you haven’t seen the news, this is the first time a total solar eclipse has crossed US air space since the 1970s, and the first time totality has crossed the country since 1918. This is a big deal.
Since I first read about it last year, I’ve had it in my head as the sort of thing I’d love to bring my family to see but figured I wouldn’t actually make it to. Life happens, and here we are now, though, just inside four months out and getting closer.
So, rather than talk about all the science today, I ask, has anyone made plans to go? I’d like to go but am kind of stuck about where to start. I’d imagine a lot of the rooms that were available within a reasonable drive of the totality path are booked solid, and getting solider by the second. Same for flights. I’m not fortunate enough to live close enough to get there without flying. I think the closest edge of the path is a 12 hour drive away, in South Carolina.
Are you going? Any tips for finding a place? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Okay, fine. A little science. I’ll give you 250 words:
Solar eclipses happen when the moon, always a new Moon, passes directly between the Sun and the Earth. It has to be a new Moon. If it’s not, then the Moon can’t pass directly between the Sun and Earth. That is, the phases other than new Moon happen when the Moon is off to one side or the other of the line made by the Earth and Sun. Something can’t block something else out when it’s off to the side of those things, “Hey you guys!! Over here!”
Also, the Moon’s orbit around the Earth is tilted relative to the Earth’s orbit around the sun. More often than not, the moon passes above or below the Sun as seen from Earth. There’s also the Moon’s varying distance from Earth because its orbit isn’t a perfect circle. This time, bullseye!
Solar eclipses happen when Earth passes into the Moon’s shadow. The Moon is small, so its shadow is, too. From different places, more or less of the Sun appears blocked by the Moon. Totality is when the Moon passes right across the middle of the Sun as seen from a given spot, and blocks the whole thing out. Since the shadow is so small, the path of totality, as seen from the ground, is very narrow. I think it’s only about 70 miles wide. Again, bullseye! The whole eclipsing process lasts a couple of hours from start to finish, but the totality part is only about two or three minutes.
Woo! 249 words. There’s plenty more science, but I think this is good enough for now. I’m sure there’ll be loads to read about this in the weeks and months to come. This, eclipse2017.org, is a great website with maps and loads more info.
There’s a couple total eclipses in the US coming up after this one, though. First, in April 2024, and then in August again, this time in 2045; almost right in time for the 30th anniversary of this year’s. Try to imagine where you’ll be in 30 years. Flying cars that fold up into briefcases, house-keeping robots.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by, and clear skies, everyone!