What a great planet we have, eh? It’s so good I can sit on my porch with my morning coffee, doing the crossword puzzle, and the trees are rustling in the breeze and the birds are singing, and I can say hi to Donald, my resident chipmunk, as he scampers around trying to decide whether or not to dig yet another entrance tunnel to his underground lair. And I can look at Ragged Mountain, where sometimes in the fall, if you squint, you can see tiny little people on the cliffs. And I can look up at the amazing flying sky, as Donovan Leitch once called it in a song.
How many other planets offer all of this? None that I know of.
And if that’s not good enough, here on Terra we enjoy another feature you won’t find on your average heavenly body. On Monday, Aug. 21, there’s going to be a total eclipse of the sun, see, and although we won’t get the full effect of it in this neck of the woods, many folks along what’s called the path of totality will.
That 70-mile-wide path will stretch from sea to shining sea, from Lincoln Beach, Oregon; to Moncks Corner, South Carolina; darkening Casper, Wyoming; St. Joseph, Missouri; Carbondale, Illinois; Sparta, Tennessee; and a whole lot of other places, great and small, along the way. Darkness at noon will happen somewhere in western Nebraska as Diana lines herself up to precisely mask Apollo.
The reason all this is going to happen is that the Earth has been favored with a moon that’s just the right size, and just the right distance from us, to just about perfectly block the sun.
That is, the sun is 400 times the size of the moon, but it also happens to be 400 times as far away, so the moon will cover the sun but not the sun’s corona, which scientists love to look at.
What are the odds?
Just as amazingly, the moon rotates on its axis at the same rate that it revolves around us, so that we never see its “dark side,” as experts in astronomy explain it.
Again, what are the odds? Unimaginably long, if you ask me. But to contemplate that, you might want to consult some experts in theology.
Anyway, Connecticut won’t be left entirely in the light. If the weather cooperates, we’ll see a partial eclipse between 1:30 and 4:00 p.m.
Clouds or no clouds, we’ll notice that something’s not quite right when about two-thirds of the sun is covered at the peak of the eclipse, around 2:45. And that ain’t hay. Connecticut hasn’t experienced a total solar eclipse since 1925, and won’t see one again until 2079. I’ll pencil it in on my calendar.
Important warnings: NASA reminds viewers to wear eclipse glasses or use a filter when observing a solar eclipse! Regular sunglasses are not safe!
Viewing a solar eclipse without such protection can cause permanent eye damage! Binoculars or a telescope offer no protection!
Fortunately, the eclipse will be streamed live at www.nasa.gov/eclipselive and you will be directed by default to the NASA TV broadcast, Eclipse Across America, which will start at noon EDT.
NASA promises “unprecedented live video of the celestial event.” So enjoy.
Reach Glenn Richter at firstname.lastname@example.org.