I know I’m not supposed to look directly at the eclipse, I remember that from when I was 5 in 1979, my first eclipse (visible from the U.S.). I realize that wasn’t a total solar eclipse like we’re about to have, but is it really that different? It was disappointing in 1979, and so were the ones after that.
If you blog about travel it’s almost obligatory to write something about the eclipse, where to see it, where to find glasses, flights that will see it, how to still get a deal while seeing it (even camping).
I’ve skipped this topic completely, except to highlight bad behavior of travel providers cancelling reservations to resell them at a higher price.
Tyler Cowen sums up my confusion over why we’ve made such a big deal of this eclipse.
I’ve seen it get dark before. So is it special because we wonder how the others will react? If traffic will freeze up and wild animals will burrow into the sleep holes for the night? Or do we care simply because it is rare and publicly observable? (NB: It is the 3 billionth total solar eclipse.) Because it upends something about our sense of the world and its underlying orderliness? Because we somehow find the crossing of the heavenly bodies intrinsically aesthetic?
Because we can see it? No one much seems to care when various planets line up in what are supposed to be astrologically meaningful ways. Or maybe because the event is dangerous and capable of damaging our eyes.
Copyright: ximagination / 123RF Stock Photo
There’s nothing new about a total solar eclipse. It’s completely predictable, indeed the Greeks could predict it and those calculations will last until the sun burns out.
Now it would be cool if you were the only one who knew about an eclipse, and it happened to come right as you were captured by soldiers or savages. You could prove your mystical powers by blotting out the sun and then they’d all bow at your magnificence.
The main character in Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court pulled this trick. And supposedly Christopher Columbus used a lunar eclipse to similar effect in Jamaica because he had an almanac and the people of Jamaica did not.
NASA has a vested interest in promoting the idea that we live on a planet, in a solar system, and there’s much to explore. But will we remember that once the eclipse is over?