A Life in the Day


By 11:35 a.m. PDT today, the ballyhoo had turned to bellyaching.

“I’m glad we all took the day off,” one miffed TV reporter snarked Monday from Boise, Idaho. “Obviously, I’m being sarcastic.”

Leave it to local TV news to explain the joke — and miss the point. We have evolved from beholding a total solar eclipse was The End of Days to a disappointing End of Lunch phenomenon. One CNN report actually quoted Twitter (has Trump somehow made that a legitimate source) who cracked that the eclipse was “Like Y2K, without the drama.”

A nice quip, but like the newscaster, it fails grasp the expansive truth of time, and our role in it. Today’s eclipse did happen, and it was rare.

Tomorrow it will be forgotten. But today, let the occasion be a reminder of little miracles, ones that add up to less than we expect in a year, but more than we could dream in a decade.

  • Depending on the geometry of the Sun, Moon, and Earth, there can be between 2 and 5 solar eclipses each year.
  • Totality occurs when the Moon completely obscures Sun so only the solar corona is showing.
  • A total solar eclipse can happen once every 1-2 years. This makes them very rare events.s.
  • The longest a total solar eclipse can last is 7.5 minutes.
  • The width of the path of totality is usually about 160 km across and can sweep across an area of Earth’s surface about 10,000 miles long.
  • Almost identical eclipses occur after 18 years and 11 days. This period of 223 synodic months is called a saros.
  • During a total solar eclipse, conditions in the path of totality can change quickly. Air temperatures drop and the immediate area becomes dark.
  • If any planets are in the sky at the time of a total solar eclipse, they can be seen as points of light.
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