I’d written about this earlier (accidentally pressed delete so am starting all over in Word),
but it is worth noting that certain natural phenomena don’t come around all that often. For a few hours, on August 21, the country decided, hey, let’s have fun for a few hours. Let’s forget about political disagreements, No. Korean craziness, rising oceans, terrorism, and the price of gas. Let’s appreciate a natural experience – a solar eclipse!
In case you didn’t know, a solar eclipse only occurs once every several years (or more) in the U. S. Since, according to a Radford University planetarium program, the moon has about a five degree tilt or difference in front of the earth it goes around, the moon won’t line up in front of the sun every month. So lining up the moon “exactly” in front of the sun is a big deal!
People came in “droves” to Radford University (VA.) for free eclipse glasses. A planetarium assistant told me you needed these glasses because looking at even a partially covered sun would tempt you to look at the sun too long. You could permanently damage your eyes’ retinas. They say Sir Isaac Newton hurt his eyes looking at a solar eclipse. So I was determined to look through what looked like those 3-D movie glasses. Though these were much stronger, to keep ultraviolet rays out.
What a crowd! I got there 15 minutes before the assigned time mentioned online and there were already 60 people in line. Then came the bad news – they’d only hand out the glasses to those going to a planetarium show. You couldn’t just take the glasses and run. With so many people quickly lining up behind me, I was guessing a lot would leave disappointed, though they did have several shows that day.
In the planetarium itself the hostess spoke with R.U. students who were setting up equipment in Nashville where there’d be a 100 percent solar eclipse. For about two whole minutes. I managed to get a “ticket” for the 11 0’clock showing and went to the college library for a while, then came back (around 10:35 so I wouldn’t lose a place in line).
In planetarium show they can quickly move things across the inside sky. During the show we were given a view of the earth from the moon, tiny planets that circled the sun during the eclipse, and how the eclipse would pass across the United States. During a solar eclipse it isn’t a dark spot, but more a dark gray that spreads out as it moves across the country. Interesting.
I knew people who drove several hours away to get to Nashville or some part of Tennessee for the full solar eclipse. Just for those two minutes! During the two minutes of total coverage, it is almost like night. Here in Virginia, at 93 percent coverage, there was a tiny crescent of light at the top of the black circle of the eclipse. And yet, it didn’t seem to affect the light outside. Well, maybe a little bit. It certainly wasn’t anything like nighttime.
This moment in time reminds me of what environmentalist Rachel Carson said, that we need to have a “sense of wonder” about nature. As a Master naturalist member, I do.